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Once a nurse, now a teacher

Jodi Weinfurter, a kindergarten teacher at Royal Oaks Elementary, has been named "2008 Outstanding Elementary Educator" by the Woodbury Chamber. Staff photo by Amber Kispert

Jodi Weinfurter said she never pictured herself as a teacher, in fact she went to the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire for nursing, but when she decided to take an education class her freshman year, she just fell in love with it.

"I was able to work in the classroom with kids and I absolutely fell in love with it," she said. "It's the passion you can have in teaching students and how you can really get them excited about learning."

It looks like Weinfurter made the right decision because she has been chosen by the Woodbury Chamber of Commerce as the "2008 Outstanding Elementary Educator."

Weinfurter started teaching kindergarten at Royal Oaks Elementary 14 years ago and her love of teaching has continued to grow.

"I've taught all the grades K through six, and I came back to kindergarten because they absolutely love to learn, they are happy all the time, they're excitement for learning is infectious," she said. "Every day I have a belly laugh because of the things they say and I don't think everybody has that in their job.

"And the enjoyment when they get something, when they understand a concept, they're whole face lights up, they're so excited, and that is just something that is priceless."

Weinfurter said the things she really wants to get across to her students, regardless of what age, is that learning is fun.

"You're not at school just to learn, you're here to make friends and have fun," she said. "That's why I really like littler kids, they're excitement for learning is just unbelievable."

Weinfurter said one thing that is a priority for her when it comes to teaching, is to treat each student individually, including individual instructions.

"I feel like every year is a new group of kids, so I have to look at that group individually," she said. "My job is to figure out how each one clicks."

Weinfurter said she even takes the time to visit her students' homes and gets to know their families.

"That individual connection that I have with each family makes kids feel safe to take risks, and that strategy if you want to call it that, makes them feel special and able to take risks, they're not afraid to make mistakes" she said. "Making my room a safe place, a nice community, and personal is what actually helps kids learn."

Giving her students the individual attention they deserve does pose some challenges however, Weinfurter said, especially when it's one person for 22 kindergarten students.

"I feel like I just don't have enough hands for all of the stuff I would like to do," she said.

Weinfurter said her greatest accomplishment in teaching was helping implement the all-day kindergarten program at Royals Oaks.

"All day is so enjoyable, it's such a happy place to be," she said. "It's just such a raw, unconditional learning place."

Weinfurter said the fact that she loves her job so much helps her be excited for work everyday, but that doesn't mean she doesn't have some future goals for herself, such as administration possibly.

"I love kindergarten so much that I can't see myself being anywhere else, however, administration might be a choice," she said. "But I don't know if I could be away from the classroom and the kids, they are the ones that bring you the energy and the joy and I don't know if I could do administrative stuff all day."

When Weinfurter found out that she had been named "teacher of the year" she said she was very humbled by the award and felt like it belonged to all of the people who have helped her along the way.

"I think you can always improve, and I think that's one thing about teachers, we know you are never done learning; That's why I'm kind of humbled by the award because I think you are never really teacher of the year," she said. "I think there's so many fantastic teachers in this district, I don't know how they can pick just one and I'm only as good as my team and my administration that allow me to grow and to try new things -- It's more a shared award than an individual."

Amber Kispert-Smith

Amber Kispert-Smith has been the schools and Afton reporter at the Woodbury Bulletin since 2008. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota. She previously worked as a reporter for Press Publications in White Bear Lake.

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