Celebrate Jennifer Hornung, 2019 Kenai BP Teacher of Excellence
Ms. Hornung teaches a long list of math and science courses to sixth through twelfth graders at Nikiski Middle and High School, and she is also head volleyball coach for Nikiski Middle School. She holds two bachelor’s degrees: one in exercise physiology from the University of Wyoming, and another in education from Chadron State College. And, she earned a Masters Degree in Middle Level Mathematics.
Jennifer devotes much of her free time to volunteering in the community, attending STEM courses, serving as a mentor to new teachers, and creating educational experiences outside the classroom, for example, taking juniors and seniors to the elementary school to help younger kids set up science-fair projects. Recently, when a student was presentating to the Board of Education, he said that Ms. Hornung is the reason why he knows why he is learning what he is learning; it is not an obscure textbook answer, but something he can use in his everyday life.
She constantly looks for ways to help her students prepare for life beyond school. She’s known to even reach out to students after they’ve gone on to college to ask them how well they felt prepared so she can adapt her lessons to the constantly changing world. But it’s not just the college-bound students that Jennifer inspires. She teaches some of the most at-risk middle school students to build up their foundational skills so they can excel as they progress through school. She is the teacher who will meet all students where they are at and build their foundation to be successful.
In addition, to her many achievements? She says, “I measure them by the successes of my former students.”
Dan Carstens, her principal said, “Jennifer came to us five years ago from Wyoming searching for a school where she could develop her students and work collaboratively with her colleagues and principals. She has accomplished that and more here at Nikiski Middle-High School. She is our current physical science teacher, but has also recently taken on our engineering classes and anatomy as well; this makes it so that she ends up teaching seven classes where the typical teacher will see five. She welcomes these additional roles because it is what our students desire: opportunities for learning, succeeding, and having a vision for what their futures may hold. Jennifer does it for the kids.
Not only does Jennifer collaborate with and seek feedback from her colleagues to perfect her craft, but maybe more importantly, she seeks that feedback from her students. Students in her classes provide her with assessment data that continually drives her craft and instruction. She also discusses how our graduates do in the various programs they enter into post high school. I cannot tell you just how many students give her feedback, but she has an insatiable appetite to ensure what she is doing for kids will prepare them and help them to be as successful as they possible can after they leave our doors.
I recently had a discussion with a graduating senior this year, one who typically does not speak out much on teachers. When she learned about Jennifer being recognized as a BP Teacher of Excellence, she was not surprised. She simply said: “Yeah, that’s the kind of teacher she is. She cares about what I learn and pushes me to be my absolute best in her class and beyond. If I don’t understand something, she doesn’t just give me a hint or an answer, she asks me more questions and makes me think deeper and problem solve more.”
Jennifer is an example of one of the many things that are right with our education community and specifically here in Nikiski. But what we need to understand is that she does not do this for the recognition. When she learned about the recognition being in Anchorage, she immediately said, “Oh man, am I going to miss school for the day?”…she was relieved to learn it would be in the evening where she could first be with her students. Her first thought was with her kids … which is where her thoughts are every single day.”
I am very proud of all our finalists for this prestigious award,” said Sean Dusek, superintendent. “They all embody the qualities we want all of our teachers to exhibit, especially in how they ensure a strong, positive relationship with each and every student. Each finalist is very deserving of this recognition and I look forward to their continued excellence and leadership in our district.”
For 24 years, the BP Teachers of Excellence program has honored K-12 teachers from public and private school districts statewide. Since the program’s inception in 1995, BP has recognized more than 750 teachers. Winning teachers receive a $500 gift card and a $500 matching grant to their school. Teachers also receive a trip to Prudhoe Bay to learn about BP’s operations and paid admission for the Alaska Resource Education’s teacher course.
Congratulations, Jennifer Hornung, BP Teacher of Excellence.