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Preschool Teacher Wins Lakin Award

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By Joel Stevens, Associate Editor

Northeast Elementary preschool teacher Liz Jensen is one of two recipients of the prestigious Charles E. Lakin Outstanding Teacher Award for 2013.

A surprised Jensen was presented the award Monday afternoon at an all-school assembly in the school gymnasium.

“I was shocked,” Jensen said of realizing it was her name Chuck Lakin, Charles Lakin’s son announced as this year’s Lakin award winner. “I couldn’t believe it. I had no idea. My family, I guess, knew and (Northeast Principal) Mrs. (Joan) Crowl and (Superintendent) Mr. (Devin) Embray, but I had no clue.”

Jensen has taught in the district since 2006. Since 2008, Lakin, a well-known philanthropist and Emerson native, has given out the award annually to two teachers in recognition of their efforts in encouraging students to come to school each day. Recipients of the award come from a pool of 25 schools within the 40-mile radius of Emerson. Kimberly Peterson, a 7-12th grade business  teacher in the Essex Community School District, is the other winner this year.

Nominators for the award were given two questions to consider: What makes this teacher exceptional as compared to other teachers? What has this teacher done within your school that encouraged students to come to school every day?

Crowl feels Jensen fits the criteria well.

“She’s very vivacious and bubbly,” Crowl said. “She’s so positive and outgoing and caring and she’s kid-centered. I think she really deserved it.”

Following the presentation, Jensen attended a staff meeting to a standing ovation from her colleagues.

“I was so surprised,” she said. “You teach and you don’t really expect recognition other than seeing the kids do so well, but to get rewarded like this personally is pretty special. It’s just so surreal. I’m thrilled.”

Jensen isn’t sure what she will do with the $10,000. But she has a couple ideas.

“My husband and I have been thinking about buying a new house but we also would like to take that honeymoon we never got to take when we got married six years ago,” Jensen said. As part of Jensen’s award, Northeast also received a check from Lakin. The $2,500 will go to a new program in the school that has yet to be determined.

“There are some stipulations on it and one is that it can’t be used for just an existing program. So we’ll sit down with Liz and come up with some ideas of how we want to use it,” Crowl said.