Teacher Tribute: Jenny Meeker - Tucson News Now

Cienega's Meeker gives her students time, encouragement

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TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) -

Every day, it's lights out at the start of this 10th grade pre-AP English class.

For 20 minutes, students can write about whatever they want in their journal.

"Everybody wants a piece of them," Cienega High School's Jenny Meeker said. "Mom, dad, bothers, sisters, teachers. So I give them the gift of 20 minutes."

It gives them a break from their hectic schedules, a release for many.

"I take the stuff that happens to me and write about it for 20 minutes on whatever happens at home, school, and get everything out," sophomore Bruce Fayazi said.

After they've eased into writing, it's time to get down to business.

Meeker uses an unconventional approach to get these 10th graders to understand the material and really comprehend what they're reading.

Have you ever heard of using maps and charts to solve a problem in English class?

"I love that challenge to be able to figure out a way that they can get it," Meeker said.

There is no shame in not knowing the answer.

Sitting in mini groups, students are encouraged to work with one another.

"It teaches us that not to always go to her if you have a problem and there is always a way to find a solution, it's not math. There is more than one answer."

Inside the classroom is a wall dedicated to boosting students' self esteem all year round.

Each student has a pot. Inside are uplifting messages from their peers.

She says you can put messages in each others' pots whenever you want so on a not-so-good day you have something to make you feel better.

"It set the mood for the rest of the day and I didn't have to worry about the other things because I knew I had people who supported and loved me throughout my compliments." sophomore Jorden Norin said.

Classmate Jeriah Tjalas said, "We're all really friends.  No one really dislikes each other in this class.  At least it's not obvious.  If someone did, they'd keep it to themselves."

Here's some inspiration each and every one of these kids can add to their pot.

"They're funny. They're tender hearts. They are sweethearts. They are kids that march to their own drum beat. They see things in a way that I don't see things.  Not to be selfish -  they make my day!" Meeker said.

Meeker has been teaching English for 10 years and she said the most rewarding part of coming to class every day is watching students get it and knowing she's truly making a difference.

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