Nominated by Jim Jenkins:

Laurie Jenkins has taught Health and Physical Education at Liberty High School in Hillsboro for the past 10 years. Her goal is to help each of her students gain knowledge and develop skills to help them become a healthy, caring, responsible adult. Laurie genuinely cares about young people and strives to be a positive influence in their lives.

Since 2008 Laurie has been the advisor for Liberty Fit, a unique club designed to engage and improve quality of life for inactive and non-involved students through physical fitness. Liberty Fit is offered at no cost to all students not participating in a spring sport at Liberty High School.

In 2007 a dozen students participated. The program has grown to over 100 students, and an additional 100 staff, family, and community members. Students not only gain benefits to their physical health but enjoy mental and social benefits as well as they work together toward a common goal and achieve more than they ever thought possible.

Click here for a story from the Oregonian.

Congratulations Laurie, from all of us at K103!

What inspired you to become an educator?

I’d say it’s a combination of two things - my parents and former teachers. From an early age my parents taught me to treat others with kindness, particularly someone who is in need of a little extra. I discovered how powerful making a positive impact on someone else’s life can be. I found joy in helping others feel important and achieve success. I was also blessed to have incredible teachers who were excited to see me every day, eager to help me learn, and who made classroom activities challenging, yet fun. Although I didn’t know which grade or subject, I decided in middle school I’d be a teacher when I “grew up.”

What do you like most about teaching?

The most rewarding aspect of teaching is that every day I have opportunities to help my students in some way… and to encourage them to help each other. Many students in my classes say they enjoy school, are confident interacting with each other, and have high self-esteem. But others share they don’t like school, have a hard time making friends, and don’t feel good about themselves. I enjoy guiding young people not only to become actively engaged in their own learning but to be more aware of and care for those around them - especially those they don’t yet know. An extra blessing is being the advisor for Liberty Fit, a running/walking club that develops physical fitness and meaningful relationships between students, staff, family, and community members as we train together for 15 weeks to complete a half-marathon.

What has changed the most since you began your career in education?

One major change has been in the area of technology. The Oregon State Health Standards include “Analyzing Health Influences,” one of which is technology. We cover lessons addressing how, with all the positive things that occur with advanced technology, it can also negatively affect physical, mental, and social health. I was teaching for several years before I ever saw a student with a cell phone or iPod and now it seems the majority of students carry some type of electronic device. In 1983 students listening to music, texting, or playing games on phones during class was not something that needed to be addressed in the classroom as it is today.

What would you like parents to know about your job?

I’d like parents to know that teachers take their job very seriously and are proud of what they do to help make their children’s lives better. This includes many hours outside of the school day preparing lessons that will engage and challenge students, and money out of their own pocket to purchase supplies and materials that will make class lessons and activities more meaningful. The bottom line is we choose to teach because we love kids and feel we can make a positive difference in their lives.

Share a favorite story about your years in education.

Since Liberty Fit began in 2007 there have been students like Michael, who said he wanted to prove to himself that having diabetes wouldn’t keep him from having fun and being healthy; Helena, who said she had few friends and had never connected with school, didn’t miss a day of training, lost 30 pounds, and gained dozens of new friendships; Jesus and Jesus, 2 blind students who trained regularly and ran/walked the entire 13.1-mile race using adult guides with wristbands rather than their canes; David, who said he wasn’t good enough to make the baseball squad but wanted to be on a team at Liberty; students with ADHD who say they’ve found a really fun way of burning off their excess energy and are doing better in school; and Maria, who said she’d never finished anything in her life… until Liberty Fit.

And there’s the teachers who say although they joined with the idea of helping the students, it’s the students who inspire them; parents who are not only surprised their child is exercising but are excited because they’ve found a fun and healthy activity they can do together; and others who describe the joy of seeing their child who has a physical or mental disability – often ignored or made fun of at school – find a group with which they gain fitness, achieve success, and most importantly, feel accepted. It’s easy to see why Liberty Fit’s motto is “Change Your Life Forever.”