OSSA announces 2013-2014 Co-Teachers of the Year: Jan Colley & Jenn Ewing

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The Oregon Small Schools Association is proud to announce two Teachers of the Year for the 2013-2014 school year: Jan Colley and Jennifer Ewing, both of from Central Linn Jr.-Sr. High School in the Central Linn School District.

Jan Colley
Jan Colley is an English-Language Arts teacher at Central Linn Jr.-Sr. High School, where she’s worked since the fall of 2012. She teaches a variety of English classes for students, including the College Now program that earns high school students college credits in English, as well as English Intervention for seniors who haven’t met essential skills reading and writing benchmarks. Colley also advises the Sophomore Class and the National Honors Society.

Colley says teaching for her is all about the students. While she has the opportunity to express her passion for writing an analysis in the beauty of literature each day, she says her greatest reward is when a student has grasped the concept they’ve struggled with, found a new love in writing, or finally realized they have potential and matter. Colley says she can relate to these students.

As a child, Colley says she didn’t have much confidence in her ability to read and write, and struggled with dyslexia as well as the verbal abuse of a reading tutor. Still, she held on to her love for writing and telling stories. It was a teacher during her senior year of high school who told Colley she was capable of so much more, that she was a good writer, and that she saw something in Colley that Colley couldn’t see in herself. From that day forward, Colley worked hard, and wrote with a new mission – that she could be someone.

This personal victory is what has led Colley to her desire to motivate students. In fact, her graduate school thesis focused on the topic. She has found that all students have the same need: someone to find the best in them. She believes that letting students know they really do matter is the root of a great receptive mind of learning and the moment when students really absorb knowledge. She believes understanding this need in students has been her most fulfilling contribution to teaching.

Jennifer Ewing
Jenn Ewing is an English-Language Arts teacher at Central Linn, where she’s spent her entire 4-year career in education. Ewing has taught a variety of English courses to keep students engaged, from “Literature of Nature and Survival” to “Sports Literature,” and has also taught alternative education to 5th-12th graders. She designed a new English program for Central Linn Jr.-Sr. High School in 2012, and redesigned the alternative education program in 2010-2013.

Ewing says her path to a career in education was inspired by her own teachers while growing up, whom she says saved her life. Due to struggles in her childhood, Ewing says her school teachers became the parents she could depend on, the inspiration she could dream of, the consequences she could rely on and the love that she craved. Early on in high school, she knew she wanted to be a helper of others.

During college, Ewing took a job at a preschool for children with autism, and it was there she realized her calling to help others was through teaching. After graduating from Eastern Washington University in 2009, Ewing landed an AmeriCorps position with the Central Linn School District, a job that became a springboard into alternative education. After several years, Ewing was able to move back into her teaching specialty, English, where she was asked to revamp the department. Ewing dissolved the 9th-12th grade English curriculum and instead leveled students according to their abilities instead of their age groups. With this program, as soon as students demonstrate proficiency at their level, they are able advance to the next level. Fellow English teacher Jan Colley – and OSSA Co-Teacher of the Year – soon joined Ewing and helped to fine-tune the program. In just one testing year, the District’s OAKS writing scores increased by nearly 40%.

Ewing says the past several years at Central Linn have been a “stressful, harried, enriching and inspiring adventure” that’s allowed her to work with a wide range of students and experience tremendous growth in the classroom.