Jennifer Hendrix hadn’t planned on being a teacher but said she ultimately fell in love with watching kids learn. Hendrix is Dodge City Public Schools’ nominee for Kansas Master Teacher.
“My content is difficult and requires thought, perseverance and sustained effort. I enjoy watching kids play around with physics, thinking things through, making mistakes and solving problems they didn’t think they were capable of,” she said. “We sometimes overlook what kids are capable of when they are given the opportunity to excel. This is what has kept me in the profession and remains my inspiration.”
Hendrix is in her third year of teaching physics at Dodge City High School. She studied Biochemistry at St. Edward’s University in Austin. She earned her teaching credentials and a Master’s Degree in Education from the University of Notre Dame.
“Learning was highly valued in my family,” she said. “Sustained effort and hard work were values that my mom, as a professional artist, and my dad, a geologist, distilled in my two brothers and sisters, as well as myself.”
Hendrix was notified of her nomination before winter break.
“Gratitude is always appreciated. I see so many teachers dedicated to the profession, putting in hours of extra work, emotional energy to help a child in need or inspire greater effort,” she said of the nomination. “To represent others with this award is humbling and reminds me of the many people that inspire me and support me each day.”
Hendrix said the hardest part of teaching is watching her students struggle, both with doubt and with their abilities.
“I feel my job as a teacher is to give my students the space to grow and learn, not only the skills of a physicist but also those of a productive professional that they will use in the professional world in a variety of ways,” she said. “Developing these skills requires taking risks, making mistakes, and often admitting failure. It is tough to watch this journey, but leads to my favorite part of teaching, which is seeing kids discover their potential.”
Hendrix has to submit an application documenting her educational philosophy, job performance, outstanding community service, continuous professional growth, exceptional school service and participation in professional organizations as part of the Kansas Master Teacher process.
“Walking into one of Ms. Hendrix’s Physics classes is comparable to walking into a worksite where teams of employees are working collectively to produce the best product possible for their customers,” Principal Jacque Feist said. “Students are all engaged in the inquiry-based learning process – they challenge each other, check each other’s work to make sure it is accurate, and collaboratively work to build consensus before they finish their task at hand.”
Students in Hendrix’ class work on solutions and then present those solutions in something she calls a Peer Review Session. Hendrix compares it to a board meeting where everyone sits around and discusses, and sometimes argues, about solutions to a problem. One of the students is the leader of this meeting and their objective is to bring the class to consensus. Hendrix does not participate in the process, instead allowing it to be entirely student directed.
“By the end of a semester in her class, students are confident in their abilities and have learned so much more than just Physics – they have learned to problem solve, collaborate, think critically, analyze, and justify their work,” Feist said.
According to Hendrix, when she listens to her students, she sees our future.
“I see compassion and the desire to include all people. I see critical thinking and risk taking. I see people standing up for their own ideas and changing their minds as better solutions are offered.” she said. “I could be a bit of an idealist, but I truly feel that these skills, values and experiences will impact the future of our community.”