DWIGHT — Lindsey Jensen had trouble suppressing her emotions when she walked into her classroom at Dwight Township High School.
“No one here knows why you’re so shocked," a senior boy told her. "We all knew you would win.”
Jensen was named 2018 Illinois Teacher of the Year by the Illinois State Board of Education. She was selected from hundreds of nominated teachers around the state.
“No one was more shocked than me,” said Jensen who teaches English and literature. “It doesn’t mean I’m the best teacher in the state, it means I was chosen to be the voice of all teachers in the state.”
Her students say the title suits her well.
“She makes learning enjoyable through her actions and how she explains things. She relates to all of us. She also has this great amount of work ethic, which is very inspirational,” said Scott Schultz, a senior. “It’s hard to imagine any teacher being better than Mrs. Jensen.”
Senior Brandon Dahlstrom said Jensen is “really energetic” and “takes pride in her work.”
“She loves what she does and that reflects in her teaching,” said Dahlstrom.
Jensen said her love of education sprouted in grade school and high school, where exceptional teachers proved that “learning was cool.”
“I just fell in love with teaching and education. I knew I wanted to teach junior high or high school because of my sense of humor and personality. I wanted to be a role model for students on the brink of adulthood,” said Jensen.
She earned degrees from Southern Illinois University in Carbondale and Oakland City University in Indiana. She’s working on her doctoral dissertation at Illinois State University.
“Teaching is the most important job in the world. In what other career do you impact kids on a daily basis?” she said.
Jensen lives in Dwight and has taught at the high school for 10 years.
"There are a lot of really wonderful things happening in Illinois schools. I hope people take note of those good things," she said.
Principal Dan Kaiser said Jensen's teaching methods inspired his daughter to become a teacher.
"We all know teachers who are great at forming curriculum and engaging with students, but Lindsey brings an element of energy into her classroom," said Kaiser. "She creates a special bond with the kids. You can tell by the students who come back after graduating to thank her."
The wall behind Jensen's desk in her classroom is plastered with hundreds of senior photos from previous students.
"I want kids to know if they don't like their world, they can change it, and education is the best way to do that," said Jensen.
"Teaching is hard. It can be heartbreaking. You work incessantly," she added. "With this award, I want to showcase all the work teachers do. We're more than glorified babysitters; we're teaching the next generation of adults."
Jensen is the first teacher from The Pantagraph area to receive the award since 2000.
According to ISBE, Jensen will have an opportunity to share her knowledge and expertise outside the classroom. Jensen will be available beginning in next spring to speak at teaching workshops, education conferences and community meetings. She will represent Illinois at the NASA Space Camp in Huntsville, Ala., and the National Teacher of the Year program sponsored by the Council of Chief State School Officers in partnership with Voya Financial.