Jennifer Garrish named Hyde County teacher of the year
By SUNDAE HORN
School’s Jennifer Garrish has been selected as Hyde County
Teacher of the Year for 2007-2008. Garrish teaches high school
science, and at Ocracoke School, that means being the entire high
school science department. This semester, she’s teaching marine
science, earth and environmental science, and chemistry. Next
semester she’ll teach biology and physical science.
She also welcomes the pre-kindergarten through eighth-graders into her
lab room for hands-on science experiments. Garrish developed the
science lab program for the elementary and middle school grades last
year, and coordinates her schedule with the classroom teachers.
Principal George Ortman commends Garrish for this collaborative teaching project.
“She came up with the idea, and made it work,” he says,
adding that Garrish is a “team player” and has expanded the
science curriculum on all grade levels.
Garrish is looking forward to another year of sharing her classroom
with the younger kids. Her resident rabbit, Sparky, is very popular
among the pre-k and kindergarten students, she says.
This is Garrish’s 14th year at Ocracoke School. She came to
Ocracoke in the 1980s to use her degree in environmental sciences and
work for the National Park Service and spent two summers as an NPS
lifeguard. She also met Wayne Garrish and decided to make Ocracoke her
permanent home. They were married in 1988, and Jennifer worked in real
estate and in retail, and also did some subbing at Ocracoke School.
“I really liked being around the kids,” she says, “and I thought ‘I can do this.’”
In 1991, Garrish enrolled at Old Dominion University in Norfolk to earn
her teaching certificate. She completed some coursework and did her
student teaching in Virginia Beach and at Ocracoke School. She was
hired to teach middle school science and math in 1994, and moved to the
high school science job in ’97.
Garrish loves working at Ocracoke School because, she says, the kids are so great.
“Teaching can be frustrating, but well worth it when you see kids
being successful,” she says. “The kids are the best thing
about teaching – all kinds of crazy things can go on with the
administration and state testing, but when I’m in the classroom
with the kids, we’re all relaxed and down to earth. I know
I’m in the right place.”
Ortman is happy she’s in the right place.
“Jennifer’s been here year in and year out,” he says,
“and you don’t stay in a place that long without having an
impact. She’s capable, qualified, and dedicated, and a valuable
asset to Ocracoke School and the community.”
A committee of five community members chooses the Hyde County Teacher
of the Year from the group of candidates – one from each school
in the county, says Carol Evans, Hyde County Schools personnel
director. This year’s committee was comprised of four former
teachers (one of whom is an Ocracoke resident) and a retired bank
Committee member Sandra Tunnell says all the candidates were
well-qualified, but she was particularly impressed with Garrish’s
“enthusiasm and energy.”
“She’s also very community-oriented, which is important to me,” Tunnell says.
Committee members were given each teacher’s portfolio to study,
and then they conducted interviews with the candidates. They assigned
scores to the answers teachers gave to a list of prepared questions.
“The committee was impressed with all the teachers, and they left
saying everyone was wonderful,” says Evans, “but Jennifer
got the highest score.”
This was in spite of the fact that Garrish had to do her interview over
the phone from north Georgia, where she was taking care of her ailing
mother. (All the other candidates were able to interview in person.)
Garrish is the first Ocracoke School teacher ever to be named Hyde
County Teacher of the Year.
“I just spoke from my heart,” she says.
“There are so many challenges with state testing, but we set the
standards high and most of the time, the kids rise to the challenge. I
figure if I make my class harder than the state tests, then the kids
will be prepared.”