A few days ago I heard some news I knew would eventually come. My favorite teacher, mentor and friend told me she is going to retire at the end of this school year.
I have known Ms. Jennifer Orison for over twenty years now. Our first meeting was when I was seven years old and my older sister started playing volleyball at Cyprus High School. I was made the ball girl of the team and would go to every game and most practices. I watched Ms. Orison coach this group of young women and was captivated with her enthusiasm and spirit. It wasn’t just the game of volleyball that she loved; it was those girls and their possibilities. From that tender and impressionable age I was convinced that I would be coached by Ms. Orison when I made it to high school. When I began my sophomore year I did play. Our team was not tall but with the encouragement and the drive shown us from Ms. Orison we were successful. For the three years I played, just like the years before me, Cyprus made it to the state tournament and played beyond everyone’s expectations.
Ms. Orison made certain that players and students who came from lower socioeconomic situations were given all of the opportunities every other kid had. Whether it was buying shoes, knee pads, notebooks, pencils, or bags, she found the way to make it work. Her genuine smile and positive reinforcement gave every student a lift and a reason to try hard.
Over the years in the classroom her specialty has been teaching health and physical education. Ms. Orison has made each student feel part of the class. She finds ways to encourage participation from even the shiest student. There is never prejudice or discrimination with Ms. Orison – never! She finds ways to impact the kids so they can excel.
Now at the age of twenty-seven (still tender and impressionable), Ms. Orison remains a key part of my life. She helped me through my undergraduate and is now influential in my post graduate work. The valuable advice from her as a friend has helped me in times of great decision. I continue to learn from this wonderful mentor and friend.
Ms. Orison fights for the student and the athlete. She is a teacher that teaches because she believes in kids and their potential to become great and contributing adults in society. Her expectations are high but she has inspired so many to find the tools needed to shine. This teacher and coach has touched
more lives than my own through the years. Ms. Orison will be missed when she moves on to other adventures, but I doubt she will pass up any future opportunity to inspire a young person trying to find their way in this world.
I am nominating Coach Jennifer Orison of Cyprus High School to be the teacher feature because she really made an impact in the life of my dear wife Sandy. Back when my wife was attending Cyprus (84-86). She was befriended by some of the girls on the basketball and volleyball teams. They encouraged her to tryout, even though she had no previous experience whatsoever. What she may have lacked in skill, Orson saw through the obvious and selected her for the team. Over the next few years, Orson built upon those hidden strengths and made a place for her. My wife ran track, played on the basketball team and was manager of the volleyball team.
One of the stories my wife tells occurred during a track meet. Sandy’s event was the 400M and Coach Orison needed someone to place in the 800M. Coach Orison knew what to do. She approached Sandy and said, “I need you to run the 800. You don’t need to win it, just place”. Buoyed up with unexpected confidence exhibited by her coach, Sandy agreed. She ran her heart out and ended up taking 2nd. When Sandy came up to her after the race coach said “I should have told you take first and you probably would have.”
Jennifer Orison, along with her good friend Kris Krewson have continued throughout the years to enrich the life of my wife as they have maintained their friendship throughout the years. Countless other examples of Orison encouraging her students abound but I for one am grateful that my best friend was mentored by an excellent example of a what a teacher should be.
I sincerely thank you Coach Jennifer Orison.
-M. Scott Woodruff
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