Name: Jennifer Stefanow
School: Desert Wind Middle School
Grade level or class taught: sixth grade Language Arts
How long have you taught in Maricopa?
This is my second year with the Maricopa Unified School District.
Where did you teach prior to this?
Previously, I’ve taught with the Apache Junction Unified School District, as well as Sun Valley High School (an alternative school in Mesa), Excalibur Charter School and the Antietam School District in Reading, Pennsylvania. I’ve also worked in behavioral health with Pennsylvania Counseling Services.
Why did you become a teacher?
I wanted an opportunity to help change children’s lives. I didn’t have the easiest time growing up, and if it weren’t for the inspiration and support I received from some of my teachers, I don’t know where I’d be. Two of the people I most admire are Mr. Daniels, my junior year honors English teacher at Governor Mifflin High School in Shillington, Pa, and Dr. Bonser, literature professor at Kutztown University, Kutztown, Pa. And since they say imitation is the most sincere form of flattery…if I can help out just one of my students the way those two teachers helped me, well, it will all be worth it!
Why did you decide to teach in Maricopa?
I love the town of Maricopa. I’ve met some genuinely wonderful people here in our community. I want to give back to the city of Maricopa in any way I can, and I can think of no better way than in teaching our kids.
What is your approach to teaching?
Since I also have a background in behavioral health, my classroom management style is to first and foremost create an environment that is nurturing, where students feel safe expressing themselves (in an appropriate way, of course). I like to describe my approach as strict when it comes to the subject matter, and sensitive when it comes to students’ behavior. I try to remind myself daily that there’s a reason children act the way they do, and it’s better to try to address the root of the behavior and teach the child a better way to behave, rather than just punish.
What makes you unique?
In addition to teaching English, I’m also a writer. I try to give the students who have a desire to do more with their writing a bit of insight into the publishing world. I’m very proud to be in charge of our forthcoming Desert Wind literary magazine, Tiger Teenz.
What do you like to do when you are not teaching?
I love to write, obviously. I also enjoy learning new things, and I’ll read anything. I enjoy running with my dog, Kojak, camping, hiking, and singing karaoke (badly).
Do you have any children? If so are they in the district?
I don’t have kids.
What is the most memorable teaching or life experience you have had?
I was teaching at Sun Valley on the morning of September 11, 2001. One other teacher and I had to somehow hold ourselves and 60 seventh and eighth graders together as we watched the tragedy unfold on our classroom television. It was without a doubt the most difficult day of my teaching career.
Anything else you would like to add?
No, except…GO TIGERS!
Photo by Michael K. Rich