Jennifer Klem-Myers knew in the third grade she wanted to be a teacher
Published in the May 24 – June 6, 2017 issue of Morgan Hill Life
By Marty Cheek
In the third grade Jennifer Klem-Myers discovered her life’s career path. She knew in her heart she wanted to educate young minds. For the past 16 years in her classroom, she has taught second-graders and third-graders at Barrett Elementary School.
As a child, she would write lessons on the chalkboard her parents put on a door in their San Jose home.
“I had a little American flag — I still remember it vividly — where I would do the Pledge of Allegiance,” Klem-Myers recalled her youthful dream of becoming an educator. “I would put my school work up on the board. And I would talk to my class, which was basically my stuffed animals, and I would mimic being a teacher. So initially, it started in third grade. It’s kind of cool that I’m teaching third grade now.”
At the Morgan Hill Federation of Teachers’ second annual Friends and Family Community Festival April 22 at Live Oak High School, Klem-Myers received a sweet surprise from her colleagues in the Morgan Hill Unified School District. MHFT President Gemma Abels announced her as the district’s 2017 Teacher of the Year.
The process of selection proceeded through various stages of voting. In the first stage, each school site selected their own teacher of the year. Besides Klem-Myers at Barrett, school site teachers of the year were Kristina Peterson Carr at Britton Middle School, Eddie Yoon at Central High School, Kathy Corcoran at El Toro Elementary School, Ellyn Perez at Jackson Academy of Math and Music, Martha Stawarz at Live Oak High School, Kate Parsons at Los Paseos Elementary School, Dan Scudero at Martin Murphy Middle School, Lisa Clark at Nordstrom Elementary School, Johanna Miller at Paradise Valley Engineering Academy, Terri Muscutel at P.A. Walsh STEAM Academy, Jose Anaya at San Martin Gwinn Environmental Science Academy, and Heather Rottenborn at Sobrato High School.
Out of that selection, three teachers were chosen as finalists by the federation’s executive council. The union representatives then voted from these three — and selected Klem-Myers as the MHUSD Teacher of the Year.
“The union reps read their bios and hearing all of the bios of these teachers in this district made me realize how much they do, how selfless they are. How they do so much work for their students and they’re not looking for any recognition,” she said “They’re just good people. It’s an honor and I was really taken by surprise because all of these people were so good.”
After graduating from Live Oak High School in 1995, Klem-Myers went to West Valley Community College for two years, then transferred to San Jose State University where she earned her bachelor of arts degree in liberal studies. She entered the credential program at San Jose State for a year and a half. Barrett was a brand new school in 2001 and Klem-Myers found herself teaching second grade there. She’s been teaching at the campus ever since, one of three teachers who stayed at Barrett since its opening day. Along the way, she earned her master’s degree in education and had two children who now both attend Barrett. Evan was born in 2007 and is in fourth grade. Luca was born in 2011 and is in kindergarten.
Every day, Klem-Myers learns much from the Barrett students and colleagues. Every student in her class is a unique and special child who comes to school eager to learn, she said. She praised her current group of third-graders for having positive attitudes and good work ethics.
“They’re really good people. They’re role models for their fellow students,” she said. “Over the year, I’ve got to know their families, and they come from really good families. That has a lot to do with it. They’re being raised by really good, kind parents.”
Being a teacher is a labor of love for Klem-Myers. In the mornings when the third-graders file into Barrett’s Room 12, she greets each child with a warm welcome to the day’s learning. The No. 1 thing she loves about being a teacher is working with kids.
“The reason why I’ve been at Barrett for 16 years is because this campus is like a second family. It really is. I feel like every day is different. I learn just as much from my students as I’m hoping they learn from me,” she said. “I also really love working with the community. Not to get sentimental, but it gives me great purpose in my life to come to work every day to work in public education, to see my children change in a whole year from where we start to where we wind up.”
The staff at Barrett is supportive in not only Klem-Myers’s professional life but also her personal life. Many of the women she works with have formed “a little sisterhood” at the school, she said.
“These women have seen me get married and have two children,” she said. “My kids think of them not only as their teachers but as an extension of their own family. This school really allows you to flourish both professionally and personally.”
This year’s third-graders believe Klem-Myers well deserves the honor of MHUSD Teacher of the Year. Student Nawar Abdalla, 9, said, “She’s nice. She makes everything fun when we’re doing something… When we’re doing math, she helps everybody when they need help or they’re confused or something.”
Alyssa Oakley, 9, said the response from the class was excitement when they learned their teacher was selected Teacher of the Year.
“I was so happy because I love Ms. Myers. (The students) were like… ‘Yay!’ I went home and told my parents that Ms. Myers is Teacher of the Year and they said ‘cool.’”
Student Dylan DeHaro, 9, is a friend of the Klem-Myers family and is good friends with her children.
He remembers when he learned last summer she would be his teacher. “It was like, yay, I have Ms. Myers. My mom was checking (messages) on her phone when we were getting gas and she said, ‘Hey, Dylan, you’re going to be in Ms. Myers class.’ And I go, ‘What! Yay!’”
Derek Payne, 9, said Klem-Myers has increased his appreciation for reading. She hands out books and the students read chapters and ask questions and talk about the content, he said. She also makes learning fun.
“She’s funny because she has a good sense of humor. She likes to laugh,” he said.
Klem-Myers had many teachers as a child and teen who influenced her. She especially remembers her seventh-grade teacher, Sophie Nemith, who taught at Martin Murphy Middle School.
“Nemith made it fun for me,” she said. “She was my math teacher and ASB director. She made me think this could be fun. Sophie Nemith. I can still see her face. I really loved her.”