The Amherst Regional Middle School Educator Award for 2018-19 will be awarded to science teacher Jennifer Welborn. The award, given by the Amherst Regional Middle School Parent Guardian Organization (ARMS PGO), is based on three main criteria: student support, collaboration with colleagues, and contributions to the ARMS community.
Welborn was nominated by a number of ARMS students and parents. In the nomination comments, some themes arose multiple times: her infectious excitement about science; her generosity in helping outside of class hours; her collaboration with colleagues, include field trip organization, regular lunchtime visiting lecturers and a weekly science club; and the interest she takes in the outside lives of her students.
One nominator said, “She often tells people how great they are, and tries to instill a sense of pride in them about how they are smart,” no matter how difficult they may find the work.
According to another nomination, Welborn “makes learning science fun by all the crazy cool activities she does in class,” including crowd-pleasing science experiments with chemical reactions and controlled explosions. She is “always smiling and seems to make everyone laugh when people are having a rough day; she always brings positive energy.”
Welborn’s collaborative instinct is visible not just to fellow teachers, but to her students, who describe her as one of the leaders of the team. “She plans field trips and sets up lots of events at school like goodbye parties for teachers.” Another student said, “She often works with other teachers to connect student learning to what they are working on in other classes,” for example, helping incorporate science into a social studies climate change unit.
Beyond the classroom, she hosts a regular lunchtime “Soundbytes Café” with visiting UMass researchers. The talks are open to all students, the result of a collaborative effort between ARMS science teachers and the Graduate Women In Science (GWIS) organization at UMass Amherst. Welborn also runs a popular weekly science club for students after school.
Jennifer Welborn, in her 19th year of teaching at ARMS, continues to be a positive force in the community. In an essay she once wrote, Welborn said, “I have the opportunity each and every day to help kids feel like competent, important people.” As one nomination concluded, “she is a phenomenal teacher, and makes science the best part of the day.”
Ms. Welborn will receive a certificate and a $500 award from the ARMS PGO, and her name will be engraved on the Educator Award plaque in the library of the middle school.
Administered annually by the ARMS PGO, Jennifer Welborn is the fifth recipient of this award. Students, parents, and ARMS staff were invited to submit nominations in February. Welborn was one of 16 eligible staff members nominated. A vote was held among fellow staff members, and three finalists were chosen. The final selection was made by the PGO’s Educator Award Committee.
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