Teacher of the Year enjoys watching students learn

·3 min read

May 14—Jennifer Schuler says she cannot recall ever wanting to do anything but teach.

"I have always known that I wanted to work with children and be a teacher," said Schuler, who has taught at Muskogee Public Schools since 2009.

Colleagues and MPS administrators recognized Schuler's devotion by selecting her as Muskogee Teacher of the Year earlier this week. Schuler has taught kindergarten at Creek Elementary since 2013. Before then, she taught first grade at Creek and kindergarten at Whittier.

Creek Principal Andrea Sagely said Schuler deserves the title.

"Her classroom is a welcoming and nurturing environment that promotes a positive learning experience for all students," Sagely said. "She is a champion for kindergarteners and creates exciting lessons for them to learn their curriculum. Her passion for teaching is inspiring to everyone in the building. In addition to teaching, she is the chair of our Sunshine Hospitality Committee. She helps build school culture by ensuring celebration for success for staff members and birthdays. She also is a charter teacher for Creek Club Invention, our after-school STEM program. Ms. Schuler helps make Creek a great place to learn and to work."

Schuler said her rewards come each day in her classroom.

"I love watching my students learn, explore, engage and be curious," she said. "The rewards I receive come from their faces and expressions when they discover something new or learn a new skill. The biggest reward is just simply them being their own individual and letting me be a part of their experience."

A student's independence is important for Schuler.

"I want them to feel comfortable with who they are and have confidence in who they will become," she said.

She recalled how a fourth-grade teacher who made her feel special.

"If I worked hard in her class she would reward with even the simplest things," she said. "I remember one particular time I had studied and passed a test that was hard. She walked me down later that day to the teacher's lounge and bought us bottles of Coke, and we sat outside at lunch and drank them together. I thought that was a huge deal, and I remember feeling like I was the most important person in her life at that moment."

Schuler said she also wants her students to develop social and academic skills.

"I want them to be able to understand their social awareness and be able to handle situations in a positive manner," she said. "I want all of my students to be able to move to first grade with ease and confidence. I always hope that I have helped foster lifelong learners."

However, Schuler said she and students have faced challenges, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"We embarked on many new territories of the unknown and had to learn how to navigate through it," she said. "Our students certainly suffered in their education. We as educators are working hard to help the students get back on track and maintain consistency."

Schuler said her students help pick her up.

"What helps me is when they give me a hug, tell me they love me or draw a picture for me," she said. "Those moments make me stop and realize that I am important to them and no matter what I'm dealing with they love unconditionally. They make me laugh, cry and love deeper than I ever thought imaginable. I also rely on the support of my own family and my Creek Elementary family. We are a tight group of coworkers who lean on and help each other out daily."

Meet Jennifer Schuler

AGE: 47.

HOMETOWN: Muskogee.

EDUCATION: Grant Foreman Elementary; Alice Robertson Junior High; Muskogee High School; Hutchinson High School (Hutchinson, Kansas); Associates Degree at Connors State College; Bachelor's Degree at Northeastern State University (Early Childhood)

FAMILY: Married to Jeremy Schuler for 26 years; Two daughters, Haley and Riley.

HOBBIES: Spending time with family and friends, traveling, shopping, relaxing by the pool, watching movies, gardening.