In the three terms since joining the staff at St Thomas More Catholic Primary School, Ruse, it’s safe to say Liz Jensen’s compassion and love of teaching has had a profound impact on the students in her Year 6 class, especially young Grace Kedde.
Mrs Jensen, a former student at the school, was recently named the 2Day FM 'Teacher of the Week' winning a $250 BIG W voucher, after Grace who joined the St Thomas More school community midway through 2020, nominated her for the competition.
Grace told celebrity radio personality Dave Hughes she entered her favourite teacher because “she’s so nice and funny, and sets up zoom meetings with a counsellor to see how we were all doing mentally and physically during lockdown.”
After starting work at the school six months before lockdown began, Mrs Jensen felt she had just started to build relationships with her students and was overwhelmed by Grace’s nomination. “I was crying this morning when the radio station called and told me I’d won,” said Mrs Jensen.
“As teachers we try to make a difference in our students' lives, so it’s so nice to be acknowledged for what we do and so publicly as well. Teaching is a team effort and I couldn’t do it without the support of my colleagues” - Mrs Jensen.
St Thomas More Principal, Philip Barrington, was delighted that Mrs Jensen had been acknowledged for her commitment and hard work.
“I’m very proud of Liz, she’s a phenomenal teacher and has had a huge impact on her students in a short period of time,” said Mr Barrington. “Liz, like all the teachers at St Thomas More, have gone above and beyond to cater not only to the needs of the children, but also support the needs of the families in our school—across all aspects of life—to ensure learning could continue during these strange and unprecedented times.”
Returning to her former primary school, which she holds in high esteem, felt like returning home for Mrs Jensen.
“The community of St Thomas More is such a big part of my life, it is such a beautiful family community school and I’m so glad to come back and be part of it,” she said. “For me it was like coming home - my son goes to school there, it’s part of my local parish - and it felt so good to be able to give back to the community that did so much for me as a child.”
For this dedicated teacher, who also has three children of her own to supervise —including a three year old—the hardest part of remote learning during lockdown is not being able to see the students she cares so much about in person.
“I do a daily wellbeing check-in with the students, but not being able to support them face-to-face is difficult,” she said. “I’m really looking forward to getting back in the classroom and spending some time with my students before they graduate and move onto high school.”
Established in 1978, St Thomas More is a close-knit community and renowned for the quality pastoral care it provides to support the needs of families and students in the area.
“Our staff are well aware of the struggles families in our community are facing trying to juggle everything, and what we all need most is face-to-face interaction between teachers and students,” said Mr Barrington.“When you have good people like Liz on your staff, they just weave their magic and the kids look forward to coming to school everyday.”
The lessons Mrs Jenson wants her students to learn from lockdown and take with them as they embark on the stage of their schooling is not to stress, to understand that things will happen in life you can’t control, and that sometimes you just have to be ‘like the ocean and go with the flow’.
“I think it’s really important to put a positive spin on this lockdown experience for my students, so as a class we’ve created a COVID time capsule and added letters and other things to read back in years to come.”