LPE’s Jennifer Brock named semi-finalist for Louisiana Teacher of the Year

Published 12:15 am Wednesday, April 26, 2017

LAPLACE — Jennifer Brock was understandably thrilled when she was named the Teacher of the Year at Lake Pontchartrain Elementary School.

She was overjoyed when she was named the St. John the Baptist Parish Public Schools Elementary Teacher of the Year.

But she was downright shocked when she learned last week she was one of 24 finalists for state Teacher of the Year.

“I thought it was all done and over with,” she said. “I opened the email last Tuesday and was just shocked.”

Lake Pontchartrain Elementary principal Jason Beber wasn’t surprised.

Lake Pontchartrain Elementary’s Jennifer Brock serves St. John as a Master Teacher and helps guide the district’s curriculum for fourth grade math.

“Ms. Brock is the mold of what a teacher can and should be, and what principals hope to duplicate amongst their staff,” Beber said. “She has a deep desire for learning and sharing her new-found knowledge with her colleagues and students. She goes above and beyond, not only for her school, but for her district. We are privileged and honored to have her at ‘The Nest.’”

Teaching may be her calling, but Brock, a Reserve native and St. Charles Catholic graduate, thought she wanted to be a psychologist, so she got a Bachelor’s degree in psychology from Southeastern Louisiana University.

“I wanted to listen to people’s problems,” she said. “You know, the whole couch thing. I like to talk.”

Then something “clicked” for her and she switched to education.

Perhaps it was fate.

Brock hadn’t even graduated from college when she secured her first teaching job at Lake Pontchartrain Elementary.

“I was thrown right in,” she said. “I came to see the classroom before I even graduated. I graduated in December and started in January.”

Over the past 10 years Brock has taught all subjects in fourth grade as well as inclusion with special education students.

Math is her strong suit, however. Just this year the district compartmentalized and Brock became a fulltime math teacher. A district teacher and Master Teacher, she also writes the district’s curriculum for fourth grade math, working during the summer to tweak the system then teaching it to the other teachers.

Math offers special challenges to her students, she said.

“It’s a lot of work, a lot of trial and error with the new math series,” she said. “It’s very rigorous.”

Brock now is working on her packet for State Teacher of the Year, of which nine will be selected by the end of May. One of her tasks is to spell out a platform she would use as an advocate around the state.

“My biggest thing I would like to talk about is reading and math literacy,” she said. “We need to focus more on our K through 2 math and reading gaps, because our kids do not have a strong foundation now. They come to us in third or fourth grade and they can’t read, so they have all these gap skills and they’re falling behind. It’s not simple math any more. It’s all multi-step word problems.”

To get to this point Brock had to weather the storm — literally.

She was devastated as she saw the scenes on TV of her school’s original campus being inundated by Hurricane Isaac’s flood waters, knowing her life and those of her students would change.

“We lost it all,” Brock said. “It was like starting all over again. We lost all our personal belongings, all our resources. People had their diplomas in the schools.”

Some children never came back.

“I actually went into the subdivisions with a couple of other teachers, trying to recruit our kids,” she said. “We were looking for our kids to get them back into our system. We went into some of the shelters trying to find them. A lot of them moved because their houses were destroyed.”

The school moved from site to site before being relocated to the campus of East St. John Elementary. Brock’s current classroom is a temporary building connected to others by a series of wooden walkways.

“It’s been very challenging,” she said. “When the storm first hit I was stationed at 5th Ward Elementary, then I was sent to Garyville, then we all moved here. We were all at different schools with different grade levels.”

The one constant had been teaching, though.

“I like the kids, I like motivating them,” Brock said.

“I don’t ever just let my kids turn in anything. I expect a lot from them. I like to see where they start from in August to where they’re going to end up in May. I want them to excel in everything they do, so I push them.”