Your kids and her family may be the only things she loves more than Disney! Jennifer Golden has been a phenomenal addition to the kindergarten corps of teachers at Hardin Valley Elementary. Come see why.
Adam: Where were you born?
Jennifer: I was born here actually. Born in Oak Ridge.
Adam: Which elementary school did you attend?
Jennifer: I’m a Karns girl! I went there for elementary school all the way through high school and met my husband there. We are Beavers through and through.
Adam: What year did you graduate high school?
Jennifer: I graduated high school in 2004.
Adam: I used to teach over there and I go visit there a lot. I’m going to have to look for your picture on the wall!
Jennifer: Oh no! *Laughter*
Adam: Which college did you go to?
Jennifer: University of Tennessee.
Adam: What did you major in?
Jennifer: I actually started out wanting to do Speech Pathology. My major, oddly enough is in Audiology. The further I got into it, I realized I wanted to do Early Childhood Education and I got my Masters from UT.
Adam: How far along did you stay in it before you decided to change?
Jennifer: Far enough to get the degree, but I realized I didn’t want to do the medical side of speech pathology and audiology. It just wasn’t where I wanted to be. I knew I wanted to work with kids. If I was going to be in the school, I wanted to be in the classroom and not with speech.
Adam: Do you pick up on things in speech with the kids?
Jennifer: Yes. It’s helpful to know the terminology when talking to the speech teacher about articulation and about the importance of being able to form those letters. It’s especially important in kindergarten! It’s nice to be able to have a conversation with them and know what it means.
Adam: How many years have you taught?
Jennifer: When I graduated from UT, I actually taught at Karns Middle School. I taught there for four years. Then, I started having children and after I had my second child, I left the classroom for five years. This is my first year back after being at home for the past five years. My daughter and I actually started kindergarten together. She’s right next door. She has Ms. Blackburn.
Adam: Do you like it in kindergarten?
Jennifer: I love it. I love it more than I thought I would. I feel like it’s one of the grades where you can really see the progress. I feel like when I taught sixth grade, it was all about fine tuning a craft. We did a lot of writing and it was just fine tuning this, fine tuning that, and it was hard to see the results so quickly with them. At this point in the year my students are starting to surprise themselves. They say, “Hey! I can read this by myself” or “I’m writing this now by myself”! It’s so nice to be able to see that progression.
Adam: Did you teach ELA before?
Jennifer: I did.
Adam: Do you sponsor any clubs or coach any sports?
Jennifer: With this being my first year back, I am not outside the classroom yet. Eventually, I would love to be. Especially with having an eight year old and a five year old at home. My focus is truly just being the best I can be within the classroom and then hopefully branching out later.
Adam: Who does your eight year old have?
Jennifer: He has Ms. Lee
Adam: Why did you get into teaching?
Jennifer: I knew that I always wanted to work with children. I just knew that. During high school, I worked at Grace Place. That’s down the road at Grace where we go to church. I spent a lot of years working there and it was a really natural progression. I have a very mothering and nurturing personality and it’s just something I felt like I was always going to do.
Adam: Why did you originally choose middle school?
Jennifer: After I graduated and I was looking for a position, I was interviewing all over the place. I feel like it chose me. That’s where I interviewed mostly because that’s where I had gone to school. It was comfortable. I went to the interview and it just worked. It clicked. I actually taught with several of my former teachers. We worked together. It was really neat and it was perfect for that time in my life and I learned a lot. After I left middle school and was home with little ones for the past several years, I realized my true calling. You can’t beat this, this is where I should be.
Adam: What would you do if you weren’t in teaching?
Jennifer: I’ve spent the past several years of stay at home mom and I am a Disney girl! I love Disney. I actually do a little travel agent thing on the side for Disney. That’s what I would do. I’d stay home and do that.
Adam: Who was your favorite teacher when you were a student?
Jennifer: I had a string of wonderful writing teachers and teachers that really were the hard teachers, if you will. They were all in English and Writing. I’ll never forget my high school teacher, Ms. Beverley. She was the hard teacher that made me work so hard in class. When you got an A in that class you were really proud of it. It wasn’t an easy A, it was a grade you really had to work for. Teacher’s like Ms. Tollison in middle school, Mr. Rector from Karns, and Ms. Beverly who made you work harder and helped to make me a good writer are the ones I’ll remember.
Adam: Who has been the most help to you since you’ve back in the classroom?Jennifer: That’s so easy. The whole kindergarten team has been amazing, but without Ms. Blackburn I’d still be swimming underwater with the straw trying to breathe. She’s amazing and I can always count on her. I feel like she answers questions before I even ask them. She’s so great at taking me under her wing and she’s helped me out so much. I would have still been struggling without her. I’m so grateful for her.
Adam: Have you earned any professional awards?
Jennifer: Teacher Spotlight!
Adam: What’s something you wish every parent knew?
Jennifer: As a kindergarten teacher, I wish parents knew that the kids don’t have to have it all figured out the day they walk in the door. I talked to so many parents that are so worried their kid doesn’t know everything starting kindergarten. They want them to be so prepared. Of course we want them to have a good base and a good foundation, but my personal philosophy is to let them be kids. Let them go play in the dirt, play outside and just let them be kids. Once they get home and the day is done, it’s time to be a kid.
Adam: What do you wish every student knew?
Jennifer: That we all make mistakes. Once my kids realized Ms. Golden makes mistakes too, they are more comfortable in the classroom. Everybody’s gonna make mistakes. That’s how you learn. That’s just the environment that I want them to have.
Adam: What do you think the difference between a good teacher and a great teacher is?
Jennifer: I would say a good teacher is somebody who teaches ‘the stuff’, if you will. A great teacher sees their kids. They can look in their eyes and it’s not just a kid sitting in the seat, it’s a kid with a name and a family at home. You’re teaching a child and not just a student in their seat, if that makes sense. It’s just really seeing the kid as a whole. They have a whole family life outside of this. Adam: I keep getting that answer, which I think is great and agree with. How, how do you do that?
Jennifer: The way that I do that is I think of them as my own. I think of them as my children and I treat them as if they were. If my kid is in this classroom, how would I want the teacher to handle a situation with them? I know all parenting philosophies are totally different, but there’s an element of caring for the kids that you have to have if you’re going to be a great teacher.
Adam: What improvement would you most like to see made to public education?
Jennifer: This being my first year back, one of the things that is so startling to me is just the amount of testing. Even in kindergarten, we test them every few weeks. Then, we have to test him on this and that. I know we have to measure what we’re doing, but the amount of different testing that these kids are doing is baffling to me. I’m just figuring out a way to get those measures and get those assessments. Maybe condensing them would work? I don’t know what the answer is. I just know that that’s one thing that I feel like we’re just wasting time on.
Adam: What’s something that you could use in your classroom?
Jennifer: I notice different things week to week that I’m missing because I’m still learning as I go. Things like headphones would be nice. We just got iPads and they are great. But I have five kids playing on an iPad in the corner. They’ve got to have headphones and that’s an expense. I can’t say enough about our PTO and just our school as a whole. If there’s a true need, I could hunt somebody down and I could get it taken care of. I really feel like that.
Adam: How many sets of headphones would you need?
Jennifer: Four sets would be ideal. That an immediate thing that’s on my shopping list.
Adam: What are your hobbies? What do you like to do?
Jennifer: I love to spend time with my family. We go to the beach and we go to Disney world. That’s what we love to do!
Adam: Which beach do you go to?
Jennifer: We like to go to the 30A area in Destin. I always laugh because I tell people we love to travel and really we just go to two places.
Adam: What is a good way for a student or a parent to spoil you?
Jennifer: Food. I hate fixing lunches the night before. I hate it. If I’m not feeling like it, and there’s a yogurt in the fridge, that could very well be my lunch. If I get like a real lunch, that’s super nice. Food!
Adam: Please feed this teacher!
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