Jackie Weerda of Rockton has 15 years of teaching experience, having taught first grade, early childhood special education and now Kindergarten. For the past 10 years, she's taught at Roscoe’s Ledgewood Elementary. Principal Chad Etnyre says, “She is deeply vested in our students, parents and staff. If you want to know what makes Mrs. Weerda an exceptional candidate, you need to move beyond her expertise with instruction. She contributes to the educational environment unselfishly – allowing a great school to become even better.” She is committed to the “whole child” in her classroom, not just their understanding of a particular lesson. She is committed to collaborating with colleagues year-round, saying “my ideas alone are much less powerful than my entire team’s.” And at the beginning of each school year, she commits to her students’ families that she will keep their children safe, respected, and loved as if they were her own. Jackie creates bonds with her students right away, learning everything she can about them, even contacting their parents to ask how she can be the best teacher for their child. Establishing trust allows her students to feel comfortable trying new things and taking risks in their learning. “They know that even if the work is hard or they do not immediately succeed, I will support them every step of the way and they will finish their kindergarten year with increased confidence, a strong grasp of kindergarten academic concepts and a lifelong excitement about learning.” Jackie knows that the diversity in her class is not just about skin color or nationality, but also about different levels of need. She teaches students with ADHD, language delays, anxiety and Autism alongside students who are at advanced levels. Some students need special accommodation such as allowing them to chew gum or to rock in their chairs. When another student questions these differences, she tells them, “Everyone in my classroom gets to learn and in order to do our best learning, some people need different things.” One writer of a recommendation for Jackie shared a unique perspective – as a peer teacher – and also as grandmother of one of Jackie’s students, who she's seen thrive under Jackie’s guidance. One day, her granddaughter excitedly exclaimed, “Grandma – I bet you are sad you didn’t have Mrs. Weerda as your kindergarten teacher. She is amazing”!