Willard Receives Teacher Impact Award

Willard.Jen Teacher Impact BANN

Each year, WITF TV, in partnership with Rotary District 7390, accepts nominations for their annual Teacher Impact Award. Nominees must teach in a public or private school in Adams, Cumberland, Dauphin, Lancaster, Lebanon, Perry or York counties. Mrs. Jennifer Willard, Learning Support Teacher at Middletown Area Middle School, was nominated by her colleagues, Mrs. Melanie Hensel and Mrs. Susan Davis, and faced 180 other applicants. Their submission below convinced the judges that Willard was worthy of the honor. Willard, along with six other honorees, will be recognized at a dinner at WITF on May 28, 2019, and will also be included in a program to be aired on WITF TV.

Willard.Jennifer.Neal.JamarMrs. Jennifer Willard has impacted not only students and parents but colleagues ranging from teachers, support staff, and even office staff. Sure, test scores are important in this day and age, but Mrs. Willard’s impact goes way beyond that.

When Mrs. Willard was a Secret Santa for one of her students, she bought items for the whole family and literally filled two leaf bags full of gifts. Usually our Secret Santas provide gifts for only one child in the household. As a LifeSkills, Learning Support Teacher, Mrs. Willard has been instrumental in making sure her students meet the criteria to get into Dauphin County Technical School. She then purchases their required t-shirts and sweatshirts; allowing the students to fit in at their new school and removing the expense burden for the family. Many of these students she has worked with for all three of their years at the middle school. Thinking beyond the classroom to their career opportunities after high school is one of her goals.

Mrs. Willard played a key part in starting the Cranes of Hope Club at Middletown Area Middle School. After reading the book Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes, the club makes origami cranes for those afflicted by cancer. Japanese legend says if you make 1000 cranes, your wish for health will be granted. The Crane Club made cranes for teachers, children, office personnel and people in the community. Perhaps the crane project is best summed up by those who participated. One student stated, “Mrs. Willard has taught me selflessness. In other words, there are people in this world with bigger problems than yours. She taught me that you shouldn’t be focusing on whether the glass is half full or half empty but that there is water in the glass; just drink it. She taught me that doing for others has more of an impact than you may realize and that I should be a part of something bigger than myself. We are all different and that is what makes us special. She taught me to love my enemies and spread kindness.” Another student said, “She showed me that dedication to helping others or making them happy is truly rewarding, even by doing little things.” A teacher’s aide who worked on a crane project said, “Through the crane project she has taught the students that you do not need to know someone personally to show them love and compassion. She teaches them that sometimes life is about others first and you second.”

Willard.Jennifer.01The students in the club worked in their free time to create and string 1000 cranes for a District employee who was diagnosed with cancer. Mrs. Willard also created a video showing her students working on her crane project. After the employee recovered, she visited Mrs. Willard’s classroom to thank the students with an ice cream party. The staff member recalled, “I couldn’t believe these students knew me by name! They all ran and hugged me. They showed me pictures of my husband and I. They explained they had the pictures so they could see who they were making a wish for. It was extremely evident that Mrs. Willard impacted her students in a positive way. As I left the classroom, I noticed she was crying. She shared with me that she has the opportunity to teach some of these students for multiple years and she was moved by the affection her students demonstrated. Showing affection is often difficult for her students and it was a confirmation that experiences in her classroom were having a positive impact. Teaching is not just her job – it is her passion.

Yes, Mrs. Willard teaches Reading, Math and LifeSkills and she does it very well. A former student and high school graduate, attested to that and more. “You changed my life because of what you did. You taught me more lessons than just what the curriculum required of you. You taught me how to expand my compassion and how to recognize when people were sending me bad vibes. You showed me the importance of taking a breath, literally and metaphorically, and the consequences that can result from misjudgment. I know you have had hundreds of students. I know I am just one of many who adore you, but please know, no matter what, you have definitely changed one life…mine.”

Mrs. Melanie Hensel & Mrs. Susan Davis


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