USD 489 Hays
USD 305 Salina
USD 229 Blue Valley
USD 497 Lawrence
Instrumental Music Teacher
USD 385 Andover
Seventh Grade Math Teacher
USD 437 Auburn-Washburn
USD 443 Dodge City
Kansas Master Teacher Award
2016 Kansas Master Teacher
Seventh Grade Math Teacher
visit all 2016 winners
“Students must know that I am on their side: someone who will help them, teach them, learn with them, joke with them, grow with them, and respect them,” says Jenny Wilcox.
Wilcox sees her instruction as the bridge between mastering elementary math skills to beginning to learn the abstract skills needed to be successful in high school math classes. “It is imperative that students understand the underlying concepts of why things work they way they do,” she explains.
Developing new ways to approach teaching interlocking patterns and puzzles is how she approaches math instruction. From a stained glass window project about parallel and perpendicular lines and design, to calculating camera angles used in films to determine forced perspective, to making sure the odds are ever in students’ favor in a multi-disciplinary unit, Wilcox doesn’t “settle for the same activity I used last year if it isn’t still the best way to teach or connect with my students this year.”
At school, “(She) started a coding club for students,” states her principal. “I’m not sure she asked permission, she saw a need, an interest, so now… students come early to work on computer coding.” A peer states, “I came in early just this week to see giggling kids chasing their blinking, computer driven machines rolling through the hallways.”
Wilcox graduated with a bachelor’s in education in 1996 and a master’s in education in 2000, both from Washburn University. She began teaching at Washburn Rural Middle School in 1997 and continues in the same job today, having approximately 2,000 students go through her classroom.
The connections Wilcox has made stretch throughout her community and church. From launching a family book club at her children’s school, to serving on site councils, volunteering at church, helping with Hands on Topeka, to fundraisers, Wilcox’s efforts can be seen everywhere.
But her “persistence and perseverance…makes her a master teacher.” A former student’s mother states her daughter now “has the confidence to work hard on all her subjects,” but that was not the case before being in Wilcox’s classroom.
“I am one of (her) miracle students,” said one student. “School has never been easy for me.” The student’s mother writes her daughter would say she was the “dumbest person in the class,” and was caught in a cycle of redoing assignments and asking for extra credit to pass subjects. The student said, “I would always freeze when I was called on. I was honestly scared to go to math. Mrs. Wilcox changed everything for me, she gave me hope. Hope that I could succeed, hope that I would make it to college, hope that I would make it in the world.”