Loyalsock woman named the 2018 state Teacher of the Year

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After being named one of the 12 finalists, Jennifer Wahl, a social studies teacher at Loyalsock Township High School, was named the Pennsylvania Teacher of the Year for 2018 at the special banquet in Hershey on Monday.

The 12 finalists are chosen from the 500 school districts in the state with hundreds of teachers employed in each district. The award was presented by Pedro A. Rivera, the state secretary of education.

Wahl was nominated by Dr. Matthew A. Reitz, Loyalsock Township High School principal.

“I said to the secretary of education that she commands a presence,” Reitz said. “She’s a small statured woman, but she’s very confident, very knowledgeable, has a good sense of humor, gets results on test scores and she knows her material well … She’s an overall fun, well-balanced person.”

Wahl said each of the finalists had to submit videos about themselves, their district and their teaching to be evaluated.

“The other 11 people are incredible and amazing. I had an opportunity to watch the videos they submitted as finalists, and it was super impressive,” she said. “It’s all so great. Everything they do is so impressive that you want to learn from them as well. I felt very much like that.”

She said she knows there’s a popular saying that it takes a village to raise a child.

“It takes a whole community of educators to raise one teacher,” she said. “It’s true.”

At the event, teachers also were represented by one student from their district, and Tawseefah Fields, a senior at Loyalsock Township High School, spoke on Wahl’s behalf.

“I brought her, and she’s a student that stands out amongst anyone that I’ve ever worked with in my 12 years of education. She’s incredibly intelligent,” Wahl said. “It was my favorite part of all of this.”

Reitz said it was great for the school district to have teachers like Wahl.

“I think we spend a lot of time looking for the right teachers, the best teachers, to put in front of our students and community. The district is full of fantastic teachers,” he said. “It’s going to give everyone a nice, warm feeling about what we do and how we do it. We try to be a community of learners together. We’re all growing together.”

Gerald McLaughlin, superintendent, said he is excited for Wahl to have such an honor.

“We’re honored for Jen first. We’re honored for our school district, all of our students and our staff. She represents all of our teachers and what they do for our kids on a daily basis,” he said. “I’m very proud of her and all the work she’s put in to this. Certainly to be successful says a lot about the work she does in the classroom.”

Wahl said she loves being able to represent Loyalsock Township.

“I have been there since the beginning of my career. I moved to central PA from New York City in 2006,” she said. “I got a job here when I was 22, and I’ve been here ever since.”

She said she loves the district.

“The people that work there are basically my family. I’ve worked with Dr. Reitz and Gerald McLaughlin since the beginning,” she said. “It’s nice to know the people you work for and work with so well.”

Of course, above all, she loves being a teacher.

“I’ve always liked work … Okay, the truth is, I’ve always loved work,” she said. “My students’ success is the most important to me. Everything else comes second.”

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