Jennifer Speace, English Language Arts Teacher, Folly Quarter Middle School
April 5th, 2017
Folly Quarter Middle School’s Jennifer Speace “embodies the idea that teaching is not what you do, it’s who you are. She has a quiet power about her. It’s the value she sees in her students as individual people,” said Michele Doyle-Wetzelberger, Folly Quarter assistant principal. Speace’s top Strengths of “includer” and “empathy” are evident not only in her English Language Arts classroom, but in her overall relationships with her students.
Speace is a 6th grade ELA teacher and team leader, and 7th grade Reading Module teacher. In her ELA classes, she incorporates all aspects of English into her lessons, but explains: “Part of my goal is to get student to embrace the writing process as a way to express their inner voice.” Her Inquiry and Innovation Reading Module class provides lots of research and application skill-building opportunities for the students through units like the Creative Habit and Economics. And as team leader, she works with her teachers, and the school as a whole, to provide structure and implement positive initiatives such as Coaching a Scholar and Student Success programs.
Speace’s father and brother played a pivotal role in forming her as an educator. With her father a teacher and school counselor, she was surrounded by education throughout her childhood. She also watched her parents navigate the school system for her brother who has a learning disability. She said, “What we all learned is he’s really smart, he just learns differently. I realized people have different kind of intelligences, which I take into the classroom. If someone isn’t getting something, I think maybe they don’t see what I’m seeing.”
Speace’s compassionate approach works in her general education classroom, which serves all types of students including G/T and special needs. She described her teaching philosophy with, “First thing: create a safe, nurturing environment for the students to learn in. Once that’s established, there’s more room for taking risks.” She sees establishing respect as paramount, especially in building relationships with 6th graders, who “are just beginning to develop into independent thinkers.”
“Jennifer’s philosophy is kid-centered. If you only look at what’s good for the whole child, as she does, it simplifies everything,” Doyle-Wetzelberger said. “She has everyone’s best interest at heart and wants her students to be challenged, knowing everyone’s best is different.”
Born and raised in Delaware, Speace always knew she wanted to be a teacher. She got her bachelor’s in K-8 and special education, and started her career at West Friendship Elementary School in special education. She decided to focus on teaching English, so she went back for her master’s in reading and taught 8th grade at Glenwood Middle School for a couple of years. After returning from family leave, she’s been with Folly Quarter ever since. Speace concluded, “I hope to never leave the classroom.”