Teacher sees getting kids to believe in themselves as important as lesson plan
MOHAVE VALLEY — Jennifer Rosenberger knows when to be firm with her students, sixth-grader Angelo Calaunan says.
He said she also knows how to reach her Mohave Valley Junior High students.
“She doesn’t make it feel like a job” Calaunan said. “She makes it feel like we’re actually doing something fun. Not the boring stuff.”
That’s by design, English teacher Rosenberger said. She said she sees her job as reaching every student, with no exceptions.
Over her 22-year career, she said, that has remained her mission, even as technology, lifestyles and the issues students are dealing with continue to change.
“I’ve had to change with the times,” she said. “It’s still my job to reach these students.”
Part of her strategy is to teach English by teaching more than English.
“I’m teaching the student as much as I’m teaching my subject matter,” Rosenberger said. “It’s more important to me that I’m teaching a kid sitting in my class.”
One class project is a debate-style lesson she calls “philosophy chairs” — It’s a form of debate that allows the whole class to participate instead of one or two students.
“It gets them all thinking about a topic, finding ideas and evidence, voicing their opinions in a responsible way, and practicing listening to each other too,” she said. “It also makes them stop and consider other points of view as well. It sounds like a lot of work — and it is — but the students actually have so much fun doing it.”
Eighth-graders will do research-based projects that tie reading and writing standards to subjects that interest the students.
Rosenberger came to MVJH after 20 years at River Valley High School.
“It was hard to leave there,” she said. “That was my home for years. I have nothing but great feelings about that place. I think it’s a wonderful school.”
Rosenberger said she’s proud to be preparing students to attend RVHS.
“Coming to the middle school has been a huge transition after so many years at the high school, but also it’s been such an exciting opportunity for me,” she said. “These kids have so much energy and enthusiasm for everything. They make me exhausted, but they make me laugh every single day. They are at an age that is such an important crossroads in life, and I honestly feel honored to get to be a part of their days.”
Charlotte Hansen, administrative principal at MVJH, said Rosenberger’s experience is helping the school.
“We are so fortunate to have her breadth of experience,” Hansen said. “She knows what makes a prepared (high school) student. Now, she can help her students at this grade level be prepared for high school.”
District Supt. Whitney Crow also talked about Rosenberger’s value in those terms.
“Ms. Rosenberger has been able to bring her high school experience to our table,” he said. “Providing our junior-high teachers valuable, real-world experience in how we need to be preparing our students to successfully transition from junior high to high school.”
Hansen also said that Rosenberger’s professional demeanor has been a hit with staff, students and parents.
Students, she said, are “very motivated to learn and work in her environment.”
Sixth-grader Hailee Brady said she didn’t expect to be in honors classes, but that Rosenberger has increased her confidence to where she expects to thrive in honors English.
She said Rosenberger keeps class interesting.
“It’s an adventure every day basically,” Brady said.
At RVHS, Rosenberger also was the drama teacher, directing more than 70 plays and musicals. Her classroom contains a director’s chair, given as a gift by the cast of one of the plays.
She also led the National Honor Society at River Valley, and won a grant to launch a National Junior Honor Society chapter at MVJH, which hasn’t had one before.
Rosenberger also is helping with a new college readiness program at MVJH: Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) is focused on finding a path for every student after high school.
“I love it here,” she said. “I think we have an outstanding team of teachers, who are professional and who care about the kids, and administration is the most supportive. I feel lucky to work for them.”
Rosenberger said that she always wanted to teach, having been influenced by several of her teachers, including three she had at Mohave High School. She said Sara Hargrove, Doug Nicolai and Phillip Gundlach inspired her with the way they related to students and made their subjects interesting.
“I hoped that I could have that same influence,” she said.
Rosenberger said the most rewarding part about her job is hearing from students who have gone on to success in life.
“You see them be successful in life and you see that they understand later the lessons you taught them,” she said.
She also enjoys the instant rewards: “the ‘a-ha’ moments in class, when they do well on a test or on an assignment.”
As a home-grown product, Rosenberger said she has had some uniquely enjoyable moments.
“I’ve had such a fun career and been surrounded by so many outstanding teachers who I’m constantly learning from and inspired by,” she said. “I feel extra lucky that some of them were ones who inspired me as a student, too, and over the last few years I have even gotten to work next to teachers who were my students in school, who I taught at one time. Talk about coming full circle!”