Oak Hill High School teacher named West Virginia teacher of year finalist

She’s been named one of the top five finalists for teacher of the year in West Virginia.

For Oak Hill High School teacher Jennifer Kirk — it’s a full circle moment. She went through all the steps in applying but says she didn’t fathom that she had a running chance.

“Fifty-five counties, that’s a lot of counties… with a lot of seasoned teachers and I’ve gone to lots of trainings with teachers in other counties, and there’s some really solid educators out there,” Kirk said.

She says teaching has been a lifelong dream. During summers she was the kid who played school with her dolls and stuffed animals.

“I wanted workbooks, I love to learn – I like to read, I’ve always been a big reader,” the teacher said. “That’s definitely something that’s been instilled in me my entire life.”

She loves her students, calls them easy to work with, and really funny. A lot of times society really writes that off; she said — especially teenagers, ’cause that’s who she predominantly works with.

“They have a really interesting outlook on life and I think if we took the time to listen to them, we could solve a lot of problems if we simply just sat down a 15-year-old and said, ‘what do you think about this,'” said Kirk.

Teaching can be like a performance and Jennifer said she feeds off the energy.

“When you have a good lesson, the kids like that and then they feed into that,” she said. “So it’s really like this buzz. And then there’s a bad lesson, and the kids aren’t into it; and I know not to teach it again.”

While she is passionate about her profession, the teacher said there are also challenges.

“These kids have really intense needs sometimes. And a lot of the things I wouldn’t be able to fix anyway. It’s a social issue,” said Kirk. “Knowing I have kids in my room who are in pain and I can’t do anything about it — that’s really hard.”

To be recognized like this as an educator is a huge deal for Jennifer — who grew up in Fayetteville, went to Wesleyan in Buchanan, and never left the state.

“I’m a West Virginia girl to my core. So just the fact that like out of the whole state, I represent it to some entity is just like really humbling,” Kirk said.

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