For 23 years, Jennifer Powell has taught at Centreville High School, with a master’s degree from George Mason University, sharing her expansive knowledge of social studies with the students of Cville.
When it comes to motivating her students, Mrs. Powell doesn’t believe in treating her students as robots that simply absorb information from you. “You need to establish relationships; you need to know something about [the students]. Not all kids are the same.” In other words, you can’t just teach. Taking the effort to get to know your students is worth it. It makes them want to learn, and it puts importance in the subject you teach. Students that are comfortable in the class that they are in care about the subject more. “I love seeing kids learn…when they see the light at the end of the tunnel.”
As a student, I’ve seen teachers give up and underestimate their students far too often. I’ve witnessed many teachers compare their students to each other, in an assumed attempt for all the students to reach the standard of the ‘best’ student. But Mrs. Powell has another perspective. “You need to find their strengths. You need to encourage them. You need to tell them, ‘I know you can do this.” Every student is good at something. Kids thrive on different things, and you just need to find out what they thrive on.” Mrs. Powell has had many students that were neglected by their teachers because of their troublesome behavior, but are now extremely successful after having their strengths recognized. “If a student is loud and talkative, they’re a good public speaker. These are the kinds of things you have to encourage. Push their behavior in a positive direction.”
Looking back at the career paths she could’ve taken, she says, “Had I had a crystal ball, knowing how education would change, I think I would’ve become a lawyer. I would want to work in the juvenile courts. It’s just sad because accountability is missing, and standards to be a good student are lower. I think with more accountability, there’s more pressure to do well, and students would push themselves and not be on their cellphones all class. I just wish cellphones were out of the equation.”
It was clear throughout the interview that Mrs. Powell genuinely cares about every single one of her students. With her former students in the hallway always peeping into her class with a smile on their face, her current students always stopping to talk to her in the hallway, and the relaxed banter with her class, Mrs. Powell’s has truly developed special relationships with all of her students, including me.