Our Opinion: Lessons in innovation and commitment

A teacher appreciation event Thursday accomplished more than honoring educators; it also recognized innovation.

The Jefferson City Public Schools held the annual banquet to celebrate its faculty members, acknowledge retiring teachers and select winners of the district’s Railton award and Teacher of the Year.

The teacher who earned the top honor and will represent the local district in the state competition is Jeni DeFeo, a social studies teacher at Thomas Jefferson Middle School.

DeFeo personifies the concept that no lesson is useful unless it is both conveyed and received.

Seizing a format popular among students, DeFeo uses the comic book as a teaching tool.

And her approach goes beyond employing comic books simply to encourage reading.

DeFeo uses comic book super heroes to discuss ethics and values, including the monthly character traits in the Characterplus curriculum. And she identifies the character flaws, dilemmas and conflicts that reflect real people dealing with real situations.

“Every person has a little bit of the hero inside them,” she said. “You have to cultivate that. I get to watch them grow as a person and as a reader at the same time.”

DeFeo exemplifies a fundamental quality of teaching excellence. That quality is finding a way to reach students, and it often requires not only conveying the information, but demonstrating and sharing enthusiasm for the subject matter.

Education — which includes the dual components of teaching and learning — is contagious.

At its best, it becomes a passion for both teachers and students.

That passion was evident at the banquet when numerous teachers were honored for years of service — ranging up to 35 years with the district. A multiple honor also was bestowed when the Railton award was presented for the second time to Ruthie Caplinger, an EER teacher at Southwest Early Childhood Center.

We congratulate these educators not only for the honors they received, but for their dedication and commitment to students.

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