Teacher Appreciation Week: Jennifer Shirk
Featuring Jennifer Shirk, MHS Fourth-Grade Teacher
In celebration of Teacher Appreciation Week, Milton Hershey School interviewed several teachers, across all three scholastic division, to recognize their important role within the MHS community.
What’s one thing you wish people understood about your job?
Teachers help shape the hearts and minds of the younger generation who will be in charge of our world one day. It is just as important for teachers to help their students build a strong character as it is to get through our rigorous academic pacing guide. Teachers teach lessons about life each day, on top of their lessons about math, reading, writing, or science. Some days take a great deal of patience, but my students keep me smiling through the good times and the bad.
What are the biggest challenges and most rewarding parts of your job?
The biggest challenge in my opinion is when my students leave me at the end of each school year. We spend countless days and hours in our classroom, learning about each other, developing rapport with one another, and ultimately building a strong sense of character and understanding for others. At the end of the school year, our fourth-graders move up to Middle Division. It is challenging to keep in touch with past students as they change divisions. I write each Room 107 alumni letters each marking period, but only a few from the five prior years actually take the time to respond. As they grow up, I want them to know how much I care about their successes in the classroom and hope they remember the many life lessons we learned together during our time in fourth grade.
The most rewarding part of my job is seeing the HUGE amount of growth fourth-graders make from the start of the year to the end. We learn SO much together and most work so hard to accomplish their goals by the end of the year. After days of practice in class, the lightbulb will finally go off and it will be evident that a student finally understands whatever we are learning about. I’m sure it’ll be incredibly rewarding when my first group of fourth-grade students walk across the stage at MHS Commencement in 2024, too.
What made you want to become a teacher?
I think I knew from a very young age that I wanted to be a teacher. My mother, a graduate of the school, has been a kindergarten teacher at Memorial Hall for the past 35 years. I used to LOVE coming in to help her set up her classroom for the school year and help with certain activities in her classroom. I even set up a “school” in my parents’ basement as I was growing up to play school with my neighbors and younger sister. I fell in love with my education classes at Elizabethtown College and knew for certain this was the right career path for me. I especially wanted to be a teacher at Milton Hershey School because I felt like I could make more of a difference with students who live and go to school on our residential campus.
There are many ways to impact our students’ lives outside of the classroom with step-up opportunities.
What grade do you teach? And how many years have you been teaching?
I teach fourth grade at Memorial Hall. This is my sixth year teaching.
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Milton Hershey School is carefully following federal and state guidelines, CDC considerations, and MHS-established health and safety protocols to keep our campus a safe, nurturing, and healthy place. Any group photos of unmasked subjects were taken prior to the face coverings mandate.