Jean Chambers

Jean Chambers of Rockton is in her 21st year as an English teacher at Hononegah Community High School. A former student, Neshua Aguilar, wrote in her recommendation letter that although she had a great year in eighth grade -- her first year studying in an American school -- she was terrified of starting high school. Particularly of taking an advanced English class. She found, though, that Mrs. Chambers made her, "academically speaking, fearless." Neshua's anxiety was put to rest. Not because the course was easy by any means, but because of the way Mrs. Chambers teaches. "She transformed a predisposed notion I had that the classroom environment can't be both fun and efficient at the same time. Every day had a purpose, and every day, Mrs. Chambers pushed us to achieve that purpose." Jean's students know she wants to help them reach their full potential, but that she also understands that everyone's pace to reach their individual goals is different. She evaluates each student and monitors their progress, adjusting lessons and spending more time with students as needed. Before starting the school year, she reflects on the past year and tweaks content based on the past year's challenges and successes. She also enthusiastically looks for new content and new teaching methods to keep teenage students interested and to keep fueling her passion to teach. For example, before studying a survival unit, she researched and shared footage of the rescue of the Thai soccer players to show the theme's relevancy. She also looks for diversity in content by assigning text by both male and female authors and authors of diverse cultures and backgrounds. "I use literature to promote acceptance and diversity. We all have our own stories -- what makes us special, unique. Teaching is a great place to foster the value of diversity and meet the individual needs of students based on their diverse background." Kelley Beard has spent time with Jean when she was student teaching, as a new teacher and now as a peer. She raves about how willing Jean is to spend time with students, their parents and fellow teachers to help them grow academically, professionally and personally. Beard says, "She somehow manages to do all of this with four children of her own at home. And she doesn't drink coffee. She's a superhero."