Jenny Bristow of St. Martin has been named Teacher of the Year for both St. Martin High School (SMHS) and the Jackson County School District (JCSD).
She has been a teacher for 17 years and has been at SMHS for 13 years. She taught one year at Vancleave Upper Elementary and three years in the Vicksburg Warren County School District. She teaches the Special Education class known as Life Skills for students who have a significant cognitive disability. Her students range from 9th grade to age 21 because students with disabilities are allowed to attend school until age 21.
She received her Bachelor of Science degree in Family and Consumer Sciences from Mississippi College and her Master’s degree in School Counseling from the University of Southern Mississippi. She took an alternate route to get her teaching certificate, and two years ago she challenged the Praxis to get her endorsement in Special Education. This is only her second year teaching the special needs class.
The staff at SMHS nominated teachers for Teacher of the Year and the top three nominations were voted on by the staff. In addition to receiving the title of Teacher of the Year, she will be recognized at a JCSD school board meeting.
Each JCSD teacher who was selected as Teacher of the Year was in the running to be selected as District Teacher of the Year. Bristow had to complete a fairly lengthy application, write four essays, send a resume and a personal narrative, and get three letters of support (which was actually the application for State Teacher of the Year). The application was turned into the district office and a committee reviewed them and selected her as district winner.
For her win as JCSD Teacher of the Year, she will also get recognized at a school board meeting and will get to attend a banquet in Jackson.
Bristow is not only humbled by the awards but is also grateful that the awards bring recognition of the importance of programs for special needs students.
“I am still in shock that I was selected. I am thrilled that others see how much work I have put into my job. I am so very glad that people see how important it is that people with disabilities get a good education. I have implemented several new programs for my special needs students and I am so glad that my peers see all my hard work and that I am recognized for that. Most of all, I am so happy that my students can be proud of their teacher. At the end of the day, everything I do is for my students,” Bristow said.
Bristow wanted to be a teacher because she has always enjoyed working with children.
“I thought I wanted to work with them in different settings like nonprofits, child abuse prevention centers, and as a daycare director. But at the end of the day, I realized the school setting was where I wanted to be. I wanted to be a special education teacher because I see the potential in each of the students. I wanted to do everything possible to help them reach their potential.”
What is her favorite part of teaching?
“I love seeing someone with special needs achieve something new, to get to do things they have never done before and to show them that I am their cheerleader. I get to laugh every day and no day is ever the same in my classroom.”
The lack of funding is the most challenging part of teaching.
“There are so many projects and experiences that I want to give my students but the funding is just not there. Before I became a special education teacher I thought there was a large amount of money in the special education programs, but I was completely wrong.”
Bristow is married to Captain Scott Gilbert, a civilian police officer at the Naval Construction Battalion Center (Seabee Base). They have two daughters, Katie and Darah, and one son, Nate.