Jefferson City High School math teacher Regina Roe is the 2019 Eisinger Teacher of the Year award winner.
Roe was announced as the award winner at the Jefferson City Public Schools' Staff Appreciation Banquet, where Lawson Elementary School first grade teacher Jennifer Uptergrove was also announced as the 2019 Eisinger Outstanding Educator.
Roe and Uptergrove were two of six finalists for the award named after and sponsored by former JCPS teacher and Missouri Teacher of the Year award winner Linda Eisinger. This was the fourth year Eisinger and her husband, Don, have funded the awards, and they've said they will do so for another 11 years for a total of 15.
Roe and Uptergrove each received $1,000 as the winners, and they and the other finalists also received additional monetary gifts from the local Central, Hawthorn and Jefferson Banks. Scholastic, Inc. also gave the winners and other finalists the choice of selecting an iPad or Chromebook as a prize.
Tucker Schwartz — a JCHS senior who has been one of Roe's math students, and is a son of JCPS' Board of Education President Lorelei Schwartz — introduced Roe to the crowd inside Lewis and Clark Middle School's gym.
Tucker said Roe always has a smile on her face. "She always encourages her students to give all of their ability in her class. If you struggle with the topic, she will find a way to make you learn."
Roe thanked her family, and said they know the sacrifices she makes — "the hours that I steal from our family, as I know you steal from your families to do this job the way you want to do it."
She added she could not be where she is without her departmental team — "best department ever."
Roe has been a teacher for 28 years. She first taught in Columbia and then in Harlingen, Texas, before she started at JCHS in 1994, according to a news release from JCPS' Director of Communications Ryan Burns.
Uptergrove was introduced by a parent, Katie Mueller.
Mueller said her oldest daughter had attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and anxiety when she came into the first grade, "unsure of herself. She came out of Mrs. Uptergrove's class a different child. She was more confident of herself, and her strength."
Mueller said she also "was able to breathe a sigh of relief" when she found out her son would have Uptergrove for his teacher this year after a rough year of kindergarten. She said that her son, too, struggles with anxiety and standing out in front of his classmates, but Uptergrove always checks in with him to see if he needs help, and does research to help learn how to best help him in class — and those efforts, too, have had positive impacts on her child.
Upon accepting her award, Uptergrove quoted Aerosmith frontman Steven Tyler saying, "I am nothing without my band."
She added "I would be nothing without my Lawson team."
Uptergrove has 24 years of experience as a classroom teacher, and has been teaching first grade for JCPS since 2009, after teaching in Eldon, according to Burns' news release.
The other four finalists for the awards were Southwest Early Childhood Center preschool teacher and instructional coach Jessica Deschu, JCHS social studies teacher Julie Maassen, West Elementary School kindergarten teacher Tessa Scheperle, and Thomas Jefferson Middle School 6th grade social studies teacher Jody Thomas.
The finalists were selected by the Teacher of the Year Selection Committee of Jefferson City area community members, who chose finalists based on written applications submitted in February. The committee then interviewed the six finalists in person.
There were 130 nominations in total, the JCPS Foundation's Executive Director Karen Enloe said. Enloe added nominees must have at least five years of experience, including at least two years with JCPS.
Burns said district staff, beyond teachers, have previously been welcome to come to the appreciation banquet, but she added this was the first time that non-teaching staff had been invited.
The school district also recognized retiring staff and staff who have reached 5, 10, 15, 20, 25 or 30 years of service.