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Jenna Key

Slater-Marietta Elementary


1.) Tell us about your role as an educator. What does your typical day look like?


My role is unique in the school because my schedule looks different from day to day, but I do have one common goal every morning. I strive to inspire hope and instill a love of learning in students and teachers.Throughout the school day, you can find me coaching teachers one-on-one and planning for upcoming events for our students. One day, I could be in kindergarten assisting with a technology lesson and the next day I am in fifth grade helping with a math lesson. One thing that is consistent is I am there for the teachers as a resource to plan events and lessons that achieve student success. I attend grade level meetings to discuss specific needs and look at data to help drive the instruction. Once a week, I meet with our leadership team that consists of the principal, assistant principal, literacy specialist, and our guidance counselor. In these meetings we discuss instructional matters and specific needs for our school and students. I strive to purposefully create positive relationships and to cultivate an atmosphere that is one where the whole school feels appreciated.


2.)  What’s your education philosophy summed up in one sentence?


Each day, each hour, each moment…making a difference!

3.) Why did you become an educator?


The desire to become an educator was born out of a summer job as a high school student.  While the original quest for a career was going to be in the medical industry, the passion for helping children was evident even during the early years.  However, it was during a summer job in the YMCA camp program that the desire to build up the next generation with high expectations and show them that they can be difference-makers outweighed the drive to be a physician.  I’ve never looked back.  Working with students every day and knowing their lives are being impacted in a positive way is unmeasurable.  Seeing a student understand a concept for the first time cannot be explained, but rather experienced.  It is for those reasons alone that becoming an educator of children – and now faculty – has proven to be a lifelong career.  

4.) As an SCASCD Emerging Leader, how do you hope to have a greater effect on education in your community and beyond?


I consider being an SCASCD Emerging Leader as a huge honor. Advancing ASCD’s mission requires strategy, commitment and involvement paramount. As a former graduate of Clemson University and North Greenville University, I am often “giving back” to teaching fellows, formally and informally through mentoring student teachers, potential students and staying in touch with professors so they will continue to have a pulse on the classroom and its emerging trends. Growing stale in the classroom will never be an option when developing the next generation. In addition, being respected among peers will only strengthen these efforts. Future plans are to provide an “open forum collaboration/panel discussion” between existing education students and teachers (both current and retired), inviting local authorities and school board members which will serve to strengthen these relationships. Learning from good and bad classroom experiences should challenge all and remain focused toward the “Whole Body” education of the student. Another area that will enhance the next generation is mentoring existing elementary teachers to familiarize their student population with teaching as a career possibility, so they will already be exposed when they are faced with the opportunity to be a teaching fellow in their high school years. This could impact future teaching shortages throughout SC. Cultivating and engaging the next generation of leaders will serve to enhance the learning experience of SC’s youth.


5.) What types of professional development (books, DVDs, webinars, courses) have made a difference in your career?


Of prominent note is a previous visit to Ron Clark Academy.This challenged me as an educator and started the quest to be better and be the best.It was through DonorsChoose funding that a group of educators from our school were able to spend this challenge filled and educational weekend at RCA together and we still share these experiences together today.While I have always been an avid reader, the recent book, “The Wild Card” written by Hope and Wade King, has motivated me to make learning an experience for students and to always keep the students interested in what is going on in the classroom and engaged.Social media is an easy tool for professional development as I am surrounded by individuals that have been hand selected as resources.One click of a button and I am challenged or inspired.With a busy schedule, both in the classroom and after school meetings/functions, the importance of professional development, has to be made a priority.Participating in Clemson University’s Upstate Writing Project allowed the opportunity to spend several weeks with educators throughout the state.Strategizing together, lessons were planned that would keep our students engaged, but also remind the importance of remaining a role model to students.Cooperation with the educators that were part of the team four years ago is still a huge part of my professional development.



6.) Was there a pivotal moment when you realized your career choice in education was the correct one? Describe that time.   


It has been said that the little things make the biggest impact.  This has proven true in my career as well.  Thinking back to my time teaching fourth grade in a 100% free lunch/Title I school.   There was a precious child in my classroom that did not come from affluent means, but had a wonderful hands-on single mother working so hard to make this child whole and healthy.  This sweet child began being bullied.  After numerous attempts to calm the classroom and stop the offenders, it was during a one-on-one with this child that I knew my choice to educate and shape lives was important.  I pulled this sweet little girl aside to tell her how proud I was of her and her amazing smile.  The tears quickly turned back to her beautiful smile.  A follow up thank-you from the mother reminded me of my importance in handling this situation.   I will forever be grateful for the confidence I was able to instill in this child.  While there are so many other situations I could name, it’s knowing that child by child and teacher by teacher, lives are being changed for the better.  Few professions allow the opportunity to make a difference in lives, but education is one that does.  May I and others never lose sight of the importance of our role. 


7.) If you could make one major change in education, what would it be?


My number one change would be working toward all educators committing and re-committing to pursue a common goal of education, challenging and leading the student population to become productive future leaders.  One child at a time, we can change future families, future employers, and our future leaders.  Too often I see complacency among educators and to remain challenged in our pursuit of excellence and leadership is the most fulfilling career one could have.


8.) What is your most rewarding experience as an educator?


This is one area that cannot be set apart – there are so many.  Anytime a student or teacher approaches to say that I have/am making a positive impact on their life provides the most undeserving satisfaction and reward.   Every day, I face some type of rewarding experience as an educator.  Whether it is a hug in the hallway, a handwritten note that is sneakily put on my desk, or an email from a previous student telling me how I left a positive impact on their life. All of these mean so much to me and I never want to take these interactions and relationships for granted.

Eight Questions For SCASCD Emerging Leaders

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