Jefferson City High School math and Project Lead the Way engineering teacher Jana Forck is the 2018 Eisinger Teacher of the Year award winner.
Forck was revealed as the award winner at the annual Jefferson City Public Schools' Teacher Appreciation Banquet, where Jessica Long — a kindergarten teacher at Cedar Hill Elementary School — was also announced as the 2018 Eisinger Outstanding Educator.
Forck and Long were two of six finalists for an award named after and sponsored by former JCPS teacher and Missouri Teacher of the Year award winner Linda Eisinger. This was the third year Eisinger and her husband, Don, have funded the awards, and they've said they will do so for another 12 years for a total of 15.
Forck and Long walked away with $1,000 each as the winners, but they also left the gym of Lewis and Clark Middle School with acknowledgment of their years of service.
A student or colleague of each finalist introduced them to the crowd of educators and community members in the audience, and JCHS senior Nathan Erickson introduced Forck.
"One of the most amazing characteristics of Mrs. Forck is her ability to take abstract concepts in calculus and engineering and turn them into easy-to-understand lessons," Erickson said.
His connection with her goes beyond that, though. He cited Forck's daily generosity and positive attitude toward her students as reasons he nominated her for the award. "Above all else, she makes learning fun," he said.
Many of Forck's family members were present for her win, including her husband, daughter and a sister in town from Virginia. She thanked them, especially her dad. "He kind of stimulated my interest in math for me; he was an engineer," she said.
She also thanked the high school math department, which she said helped her grow as a teacher.
Forck has taught for 29 years — 28 of them with JCPS — but her experience with the district goes back even further to when she started school at Moreau Heights Elementary School.
"'After 29 years of classroom experience, most people would think I would have lesson plans set in stone, but I still find myself adjusting to meet the needs of each new group of students,'" Superintendent Larry Linthacum cited of Forck's teaching philosophy in his introduction of the teacher of the year winner.
Long's colleagues Jennifer McBaine and Amy Dutcher introduced her.
"We have worked together as a team with Jessica for the past nine years. She also student-taught at Cedar Hill; she actually attended Cedar Hill, actually teaches in the classroom that she went to kindergarten in, and now her own children also attend Cedar Hill. So, it must be Skyhawk in her blood," McBaine said, citing the Cedar Hill mascot.
She said Long's been a leader in various initiatives and programs.
Long was "integral with implementation of school-wide positive behavioral support at Cedar Hill beginning in 2012," according to the introduction Linthacum read, adding she's also focused on work to increase students' achievement in reading.
"She's open to new ideas and loves to put her best effort in(to) any of those things," McBaine said.
"This wouldn't have happened without my team," Long said upon receiving her award. "Everything I'm doing, they're doing, as well as many other teachers at Cedar Hill, so I really do want to share this with everyone at Cedar Hill."
Linthacum said there were 124 nominations for teacher of the year. The other finalists were speech and debate teacher Jordan Hart, of Jefferson City High School; kindergarten teacher Jamie Henry, of North Elementary School; first-grade teacher Susan Isaacs, of Callaway Hills Elementary School; and math intervention specialist Crystal Riggs, of Lewis and Clark Middle School.
JCPS also recognized by name its teachers with five, 10, 15, 20 or 25 years of service and the district's retiring educators.
Other sponsors of the event were the JCPS Foundation, Central Bank, Hawthorn Bank, Jefferson Bank and Scholastic, Inc. Dinner was prepared and served by the JCPS Nutrition Services Department.