The following was submitted by Gary Ziegler.
“Jennifer Ziegler and I were newly engaged when she received her first kindergarten teaching position. During that year, this young, energetic teacher constantly left the other teachers in awe because she was always on the go. They warned her that the energy and enthusiasm wouldn’t last, and she laughingly assured them that would not be the case. 25 years later, she is still going strong! Her love for education, and primarily kindergarten has made her the outstanding teacher she has become and continues to be.
Mrs. Ziegler has a passion for teaching all students, but primarily loves the children that come from low-economic areas that need more than just an education. She loves her students, and, by showing that through her teaching, help her students to love learning. Her principal, Jennie DeFriez recently commented how exciting it is to see the kindergartners literally skip down the hall on their way to Mrs. Ziegler’s class each day because they can’t wait to see what comes next!
Her classroom is filled with laughter and excitement as she takes normal curriculum and makes it come alive! When she reads a book, she uses character voices and expressions. She poses questions to the children that make them anticipate what comes on the next pages. Her innovative lessons incorporate the students into the planning and presentation levels as she not only teaches them math but makes them mathematicians and expects these 5 and 6-year-olds to present their deductions and findings to the class. When teaching 3D shapes, she goes above and beyond to make learning a very sensorial experience. Instead of simply learning about cones and cubes, spheres and cylinders, they see the real-life application through foods that represent each of the shapes such as malted milk balls for spheres, bugle corn snacks and Hershey kisses for cones, tootsie rolls for cylinders and croutons for cubes. They start to notice normal household items like apples or funnels to be 3D shapes as well. It is no surprise that she uses similar methods in teaching letters, numbers, and sounds.
Mrs. Ziegler has high expectations for her students that extend beyond the state’s requirements for kindergarten mastery. She encourages each child to be able to count and write to 100 despite the requirement to know much less. She holds a pizza party for each of her classes when every student can write both their first and last name and are inducted to the “Name Club” (amidst cheers from their peers every time one of the students accomplishes it). They are taught from the start that educational success comes when the class unites as a team and her students learn early on that individual success is measured by how well they succeed together.
But I think the crowning attribute of Mrs. Ziegler that makes her an effective teacher is that because she came from difficult family circumstances and one who disliked school as a child, she wants to help every child that walks through her door to have a different experience. It is her love for the children themselves and the reality that many come from very difficult life circumstances that fuels that desire even more. She endeavors to provide a better life for these kids both in and out of her classroom. For example, every year at Christmastime she provides each with a boxed gift that not only includes treats, but warm winter gloves, scissors, colored pencils, notebooks (and even at times calculators) that she purchases from her own pocket. She builds math games to send home with each child so that they can practice skills with their families. She gives each child a reading book at the beginning of the school year, at Christmas, on their birthdays, and at the end of the year to build their personal collection and encourage reading at home. But most amazingly (in my opinion) is the personalized hand-made scrapbook she builds for each child every year. It is filled with photos of their learning and other experiences as well as examples of their work throughout the year. Each book is roughly 50 pages large and is presented to them and their parents at an end-of-year graduation social she hosts. At the end of this school year, she will have presented more than 450 of these books to students just at Antelope Elementary.
I may be biased, but Jennifer Ziegler’s influence on not only countless children, but as a mentor teacher, host to student teachers, presenter and curriculum writer on the district and state level, as well as meeting the needs of her fellow faculty members as a long-time chair of JSSC for her school aptly makes her a deserving recipient of the KSL and Zions Bank “Teacher Feature” Award.”