The Illinois State Board of Education named Lindsey Jensen the 2018 Illinois Teacher of the Year on Oct. 28 at the 42nd annual Those Who Excel/Illinois Teacher of the Year banquet in Normal. Jensen teaches English, including Advanced Placement English, Shakespeare, American literature, drama, and composition, for 11th- and 12th-grade students at Dwight Township High School in Dwight Public Schools District 230.
ISBE honored a total of 235 classroom teachers, educational leaders, and support personnel at the banquet at the Bloomington-Normal Marriott Hotel and Conference Center.
“Lindsey Jensen exemplifies teacher leadership,” State Superintendent of Education Tony Smith, Ph.D., said in a press release. “Leadership, to me, means taking responsibility for things you care about. Lindsey Jensen does just that. Students leave her classroom with an expanded understanding of their own potential. We are privileged to have this extraordinary educator represent the state as our 2018 Illinois Teacher of the Year.”
Colleagues and students described Jensen as infusing the best of research-based instructional practices with high expectations and infectious positivity. Jensen’s many contributions to her school community include helping to redesign the English curriculum and organizing students and faculty in philanthropic events to raise thousands of dollars for the Special Olympics.
Jensen also supervises student teachers, coaches her colleagues, volunteers as an adviser for students’ extracurricular clubs and activities, and serves her professional association.
“I believe education equals empowerment,” said Jensen. “Teachers are in the business of human beings, and teaching requires becoming part of students’ lives and making connections that no other professional experiences.”
Jensen’s teaching career began 12 years ago as a teacher’s aide in a junior high behavioral disorder classroom. Jensen, now in her ninth year as a high school English teacher, still calls upon her special education experience. Jensen presents content in different ways – including through singing – and gives students the opportunity to show what they know in different formats.
“Her teaching style goes beyond wanting students to earn good grades in her classes,” said Dwight Township High School student Rebecca Ruder, who submitted a letter in support of Jensen’s nomination for Teacher of the Year. “She wants her students to really understand the material and leave the course being proud of what they have learned and the literature they have produced.”
Jensen received a Bachelor of Science in speech communication from Southern Illinois University and a Master of Arts in teaching in secondary education from Oakland City University. She is earning her doctorate in teaching and learning from Illinois State University.
“Lindsey is more than a teacher of English – she is a teacher of people,” said Erik Borne, a fellow educator at Dwight Township High School who submitted a letter in support of Jensen’s nomination for Teacher of the Year. “[Her students] know she is truly concerned not only about their academic success but also their emotional and social well-being. She inspires her students to want to be their best, and as someone who has been teaching almost 20 years, I can honestly say that I have had no colleague inspire me more than she.”
As Illinois Teacher of the Year, Jensen will have an opportunity to share her knowledge and expertise outside the classroom. Jensen will be available beginning in the spring of 2018 to speak at teaching workshops, education conferences, and community meetings. Jensen 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.