LifeChanger of the Year Nominee Profile

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Jen Gruca

Position: Eighth Grade English Language Arts Teacher
School: JFK Middle School
School District: Plainfield Community CSD 202
City, State: Plainfield, IL

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Jen Gruca was nominated by her friend, Pren Woods.

"Jen is a consummate professional, and I am so honored to be her friend," said Woods. "She is a lifelong learner. I met her at a conference which dealt with sensitive topics of race and gender.  She was a great listener throughout and an ally to me as an African-American."

Ms. Gruca is an amazing language arts teacher who brings together so many other disciplines (as well as guest artists) to engage her middle school students. There's never a dull moment in her class!

During the summer, she leads student groups around the world, to shrink the world for them so that they may be equipped to be social justice activists. On top of all this, she is an extraordinary mom who dotes on her two young boys and finds a teachable moment in everything.

"In sum, she impresses me a lot," said Woods. "Jen has changed my life and given me a safe space to be my authentic self."



Comments (144)


Kate Foley Posted over a year ago

I met Jen when I was a Teachers Assistant at JFK. Being in her classroom was the place to be. She was so encouraging and made the classroom a fun and entertaining place. She engages all her students and creates passions in them that they will carry on with them forever. She is a great friend and mentor to many.

Tim "Pie King" Jordan Posted over a year ago

I first me Jen Gruca when my son started 6th grade at JFK Middle School. Diane and I were standing next to our son's locker, and a couple of absolutely crazy, boisterous, and fun to the max teachers came down the hall with pie. Yes. Pie. They were promoting a program called "Parents Involved in Education"...That was the start of a relationship with a tremendously dedicated, always striving for excellence "Classroom Mentor". I refuse to label her (and several of her colleagues from the period) as "Teacher", believing she always accomplished so much more than simply teaching. She challenges her students to learn, and to think, and to express themselves in the manner easiest for them, recognizing the expression of ideas as the crucible from which greatness grows. Jen embodies the attributes of all of the great educators throughout history, and she TRULY does change the lives of her students, and their parents, by the excellence she displays. Jen, Thank You for every life you have changed. Tim Jordan

Wendy Stevens Posted over a year ago

Ms. Gruca truly is a life-changer at JFK Middle School and is very well deserving of this honor and recognition! I am privileged to work with Ms. Gruca and observe the different ways in which she reaches out to inspire her students. Ms. Gruca empowers her students to freely think on their own to make their home, school, and ultimately the world a better place. It is an incredible gift to be able to sprinkle diverse role models into the classroom for the students to gain the confidence to rise up and influence the world in a positive way. Ms. Gruca is the consummate student herself at conferences, seminars, and travels. She brings back her lessons and cultures learned to convey to the students the no voice is too small to make a difference. Ms. Gruca continues to impress me with her ability to reach out in a positive way to her students and colleagues to always strive for excellence. Ms. Gruca is extremely deserving of this award! Thank you!

Ellie Orta Posted over a year ago

I have had the privilege of knowing Ms. Gruca for eight years and I simply cannot think of anyone who would put this funding to better use. She is a blessing to kids who lack healthy role models and she is inspiring to anyone who crosses her path. In her class you don’t simply learn the material, you learn how to apply it to yourself in life. Not only do I remember reading the books and writing the poems, I remember the times in class that I felt heard and understood. I remember the courage I felt getting in front of the class and presenting some of my very first speeches. I remember seeing her in the corner so proud that I was able to get up front and perform my best work. Classes with her were always special. She is passionate about setting her students up for a successful future. She sets boundaries, prepares a healthy environment for her kids to learn, and goes above and beyond to always make sure her class is stocked with anything her students might need. The world could learn a lot from this woman. Teachers like her deserve to be funded, recognized, and awarded.

Kenny Likis Posted over a year ago

I met Ms. Gruca in July 2017 when we both participated in the week-long Civil Rights Educator Institute in Little Rock, Arkansas. Ms. Gruca impressed me for the way she talked about her students and her teaching. I was struck by the compassion and humility with which she expressed her beliefs about what white teachers working with black and brown students and families need to be sensitive to and aware of. I learned from her conversation and felt confident that her students and fellow faculty were fortunate to work with her. I was also struck by the way Ms. Gruca integrated art projects into her lessons and the variety of expression that her students had the opportunity to practice. These lessons made it clear that Ms. Gruca worked with her students holistically and accommodated a variety of learning styles, while also challenging them with academic rigor. As a teacher, I found her commitment to the whole child child, and to every child's learning, inspiring and a role model. I am delighted to see Ms. Gruca nominated for this award and to read these testimonies to her impact as a teacher.

Lauren Longo Posted over a year ago

Ms. Gruca has been a positive force for our school district. Her dedication to hear her students and give them a voice, especially through spoken word and written expression has opened many students to opportunities beyond their dreams. To empower a student to write a letter to someone of "fame and importance," and receive replies validates their purpose as a human being. Jennifer Gruca has found beauty and strength in her students a trait that few have. Please consider Jennifer Gruca for this acknowledgement so she may continue to inspire our future. Thank you.

Remington Norman Posted over a year ago

Throughout my years as a student, there has not been another individual in the role of educator that has had as much of a direct impact on my life as Ms. Gruca. Although I never had the privilege of being one of her classroom students, I did have the fortune to be mentored by her as a member of the community middle school to high school poetry club that she has been directing for several years now. Coming in as an eighth-grader with a very narrow-minded view of both the world and myself, Ms. Gruca helped expand my perception of the ever so diverse world that I was immersed in and what place I had in it. Gruca's passion for providing students with an authentic and genuinely valuable education that has significance beyond the walls of the classroom is far greater than the average teacher. As I had been under her mentorship from my eighth grade all the way to my senior year of high school, I have witnessed her work tirelessly to ensure that her students are provided with invaluable experiences; bringing in a variety of talented poets and other artists to give students in-person workshops and impromptu performances, allowing students to travel to the city and compete in poetry competitions with other students from around the state, putting on a community-wide talent show to allow students to shine and put their unique talents on display, and the list only continues. For myslef, Ms. Gruca has been a constant supporter of both my academic and literary endeavors. She has provided me with a sense of self-motivation and faith in my own being that I may have not found so early in my life were it for her instruction. Now, as a sophomore in college, though I no longer find myslef under the direct guidance of her mentorshipIn my mind, I know that I can still turn to Gruca for that same unyielding support and counsel as a friend. In my mind, I can think of no one more deserving of this award than Jen Gruca.

Hakeem Jones Posted over a year ago

I first met Ms. Gruca when I was in 6th grade, at the after school poetry club that she runs. I came to a meeting with my sister, who thought I might enjoy it as I'd had an interest in poetry for some time prior to then. From that very first meeting, I felt at home in Ms. Gruca's classroom. It was a safe space that encouraged expression and exploration and helped me find a part of who I was over my years in middle school and high school through spoken word. She was always incredibly encouraging, and I knew I could count on her to support me and my development in any way that she could. Even after moving away and beginning school in a different nearby town, she remained one of my biggest supporters and mentors. Ms. Gruca is one of the most selfless, inspiring people that I've ever had the privilege of knowing. I am grateful to have crossed paths with her years ago. I would not be half the person I am today with her unwavering guidance and support.

Amy Posted over a year ago

I had the privilege of meeting Jen Gruca this past summer when we were both group leaders traveling abroad with our students. Even before we arrived in Costa Rica, Jen reached out to all the group leaders and I could quickly tell what a great person she was. Simply put, she’s awesome! Once the trip started, through my interactions with her, her students, and parents of students, it was easy to see what kind of educator she is as well. She has a passion for life and learning, and it trickles down into the experiences she provides for her students. I want to be an educator like her! She is kind, generous and compassionate, and encourages those around her to be the same. She definitely had a lasting impact on me in just the short week I spent with her, so I know that is true for her students and others as well.

Aimee Posted over a year ago

Jen is an amazing teacher and I wish my kids went to her school so she could be their teacher! She cares so much about her students!

Justin Greene Posted over a year ago

I've had the privilege of being a colleague and friend to Jen Gruca for over 12 years now. Jen is an inspiration in the classroom. If I was a student, I would want to sit & learn from her in her classroom. She just has a way of talking to her students that is real and personal. Besides a strong passion for poetry in the classroom, she motivates her young-thinkers to become amazing writers as well. She has an extensive classroom library that is diverse and includes something for everyone. It just shows that she is thinking of all the learners in her room. Besides teaching, Jen leads the Poetry Club which participates in Louder Than a Bomb competitions. She also is in charge of the school talent show and art fair. Another passion project is her Educator Travel program. Jen is not just an educator, she is also an amazing mother of two boys. I have observed Jen raise her two boys in to amazing well-rounded respectful adolescents. She loves the adventures that life has brought her family. She is truly deserving of this award.

Jeff Bocian Posted over a year ago

Jen Gruca was an inspiration to my daughter when she attended JFK school and was her 8th grade teacher! I had the pleasure of meeting her when she had a problem with her A/C unit at her house and she wanted to replace the thermostat by herself! With a few instructions or suggestions that I gave her, she had new thermostat wire and that new WI-FI thermostat up and running in no time. She is a thinker and a doer and doesn’t quit until the job is finished. She had asked questions that some of my techs don’t ask if they have a problem with a repair, meaning that she did her research and handled it with patience and perfection. She has two very polite and well mannered boys and does quite a bit with them. She seems to be very involved with her present and former students especially with the group tours that she arranged! You can try, but I don’t think you will find a better person for this award!

Katelyn Sullivan Posted over a year ago

Jen is beyond deserving of this honor. She strives to create memorable experiences both inside and outside of the classroom and cultivates strong connections along the way. Her passion for life is inspiring and admirable. The words on this page speak volumes of the amazing work she has done and the incredible person she is!

Lindsey Miller Posted over a year ago

Ms. Gruca is an inspiring woman, walking in her truth everyday. I first met Ms. Gruca when I was a middle school student at her school. She was not my teacher but I passed her room, and eventually visited her, often; I was jealous of the students who were able to learn from her on a regular basis, sorry Mrs. B.. The fact of the matter is, even as a young 8th grade student I could tell that there was a certain atmosphere to Ms. Gruca’s classroom and an air about her personally that spoke of comfort, love, and acceptance. When I entered high school I began to interact with Ms. Gruca more because she helped with the creation of the first poetry club in our school district. As my friends and I prepared to face competitors on a local then national stage she was a calm voice of reason and an ever present figure of support. That first year, and in most subsequent competitions, we won at every stage we advanced to. Our success is due, in part, to the unconditional support Ms. Gruca provided us as her students. Some years later, when I began college, my sister became one of Ms. Gruca’s students. I was able to witness firsthand how Ms. Gruca empowered my sister to find her voice in the world and how to make sure people stop to listen. I am now a volunteer with the Peace Corps in Indonesia and even as I write this, halfway across the world, I see regular updates from Ms. Gruca about how wonderful her students are and the plans she has arranged to expand their horizons. Even after graduation or losing touch with students she never stops caring about their wellbeing and success. Ms. Gruca is a phenomenal teacher, phenomenally, and more than deserving of a life changer of the year, or decade, award.

Michael McGee Posted over a year ago

I am in college and still consider Ms. Gruca to be the best teacher ive ever had. She genuinely wants her students to learn and become better young men and women. I didnt like writing poetry growing up, but then i was fortunate enough to have a teacher like Ms. Gruca. She changed my whole viewpoint of school and just writing poetry to the point where i started to enjoy it way more than i’d ever thought i would. She changed my life because i still write poetry till this day and still have the same outlook on school and poetry as i do today. And she also helped me beyond school and poetry. She was also someone i could talk to and receive wise and unbiased advice about whatever really, she was just an overall great teacher and person. I wish i had a Ms. Gruca for every class ??

Kayla Austin Posted over a year ago

Ms. Gruca is truly the best teacher I have ever had. She really makes an. effort to get to know each of her students especially through their writing. She is a teacher that i can call a mentor and a friend. When she taught me in the 8th grade she was someone i knew i could y’all about anything and someone i could crack jokes with. She is one of the only people in the world who knows how much I loved the Cheetah Girls. She gave me and my peers the opportunity to learn more about ourselves through writing and i am forever grateful for her. She genuinely cares about having a comfortable and inviting experience in her classroom. The first day of school i noticed based on her decorations how infatuated she was by the civil rights movement. At the end of the year i decided to do a project on racism and representation. I invited Revered Jesse Jackson to come speak to my eighth grade “Gruca Class”. Ms. Gruca and I both cried happy tears the day Revered Jackson came. It was a day i will never forget and she taught a class i will never forget. i learned the importance of writing and since i have taken her class, poetry and writing down my emotions have become a form of self care. Even though I used to joke in her class about babysitting her sons... and it never happened. Ms. Gruca is a teacher i will love and remember for the rest of my life. We need more teachers like her!

Arin Rzonca Posted over a year ago

There’s no doubt in my mind that I wouldn’t be the same person I am today without Ms. Gruca. I was lucky enough to have her as my 8th grade language arts teacher. I came in an anxious, depressed 13-year-old, my identity and understanding of the world not at all pinned down, and without an ounce of confidence. At the end of that year I left the class feeling like I could change the world, like I could stand up for anything, and use my own voice to do it. Ms. Gruca’s class itself will always be the best I’ve ever taken. She always places such an importance on freedom, and on exploring and expressing what matters to you, even if it doesn’t fit within expectations – to seek out who we really were, even if we had to leave our comfort zone to do it. In class, were given a chance to share our writing in the weekly “Circle of Trust,” where students could express themselves to the class without judgment – as a middle schooler (especially one who was struggling with my gender identity), knowing I had a place where I could work through everything I was experiencing and safely express it to my peers through writing was essential to me. Her class was also where I first started to learn about real issues the world faces – we had in-depth discussions about gentrification, poverty, genocide, and institutionalized racism, but she always worked hard to maintain an environment where students felt safe and comfortable. Even my fellow students who were the most vocal about “hating poetry” at the start of the year had gained something or created something they were truly proud of by the end. It has always been impeccably clear to me how much Ms. Gruca really loves her students and cares about seeing their growth. Besides her class itself, Ms. Gruca encouraged me (and nearly all the other students in my class at the time) to join the school’s poetry club. Aside from forming lifelong friendships with the other members as we opened our hearts with one another, Ms. Gruca traveled with us to compete at poetry slams all around the Chicago area. These events have been some of the most supportive places I’ve ever been, and I’m so thankful to have had the opportunity to share poetry and understanding with young people from all sorts of different backgrounds, brought together for one purpose. (I’m a sophomore in college now and still attend poetry events in Plainfield whenever I can.) It has had such a significant effect on my confidence – not just my ability to express my own thoughts and writing, but to really share it with others and form connections, not just to write or speak but to communicate. I owe all of that to Ms. Gruca for her wisdom, creativity, enthusiasm, and free spirit. I’m incredibly lucky to have had her as a mentor and more than happy to support her for Life Changer of the Year.

Rebecca Hatfield Posted over a year ago

Jen is one of those special people I refer to, as does she, my chosen family. I’ve known Jen for 12 years and have watched her continually educate herself and those around her. She annually attends workshops with fellow educators around the country to expand her understanding of our history as a country and our struggles with equality. Jen encourages students to travel the world on her educational tours. She sponsors the poetry the club at her school which is also open to former students. Many students from this group and her classes participate in Chicago’s LTAB competition each year and have placed. She also brings in poets, artists and musicians as guests to inspire her students to express themselves. It’s hard to find a voice as a teen/preteen and she gives that to her students. She does all this and more and has managed to have a beautiful relationship with her two thoughtful sons. On a personal level, she has even inspired me to write more and has introduced me to many artists that have enriched my life. Jen is one of the most generous people I know and I could on about the great things she does. She keeps pushing for herself and those around to do and be better. I think when you are a giver, it’s difficult sometimes to see your value. I hope she reads these comments and knows that her caring and hard work makes a world of difference. Either way, I’m sure she’s thinking about the next topic/project/seminar she can dive into for the betterment of all of us. I know that I’m a better person for just knowing her. She deserves this award for her reach goes beyond the classroom to our community and her influence stays with lives she touches. Congratulations, Jen!

Tiffany Jones Posted over a year ago

I don't believe that there are enough positive words to begin to describe Ms. Gruca. She is truly a beautiful blessing to all that comes in contact with her. She has taught two of my four children. She is more than a teacher, she's family. From my family to yours... we love you Ms. Gruca??

Nneoma Posted over a year ago

Ms. Gruca is an extremely important person in my life even after six years of knowing her. I was never formally her student yet she's an educator who has taught me so much. Without her guidance I don't think my love for poetry and performance would be such an significant piece of my personality. I doubt my desire to be an educator would be so strong. I am forever grateful that our paths have crossed. In Ms. Gruca I have been able to find a mentor, a constant supporter, a role model and most of all, a friend. She is more than deserving of this award.

Joel David Bolton Posted over a year ago

I’ve known Jen over 10 plus years and first met her as the eighth grade English teacher for my oldest son. When he struggled Jen encouraged and never gave up on him. I remember moments as my son furthered his education, if he needed guidance, he knew Jen was a phone call away. Now my son is a teacher and a coach and I’m sure hopes to blaze a similar trail of being an amazing positive influence to many. Her dedication to her students is very moving She inspires kids through writing through poetry and through books She discovers speakers and artists to come in to share their joy and their wisdom Through mentorship she nurtures students to find their passion, and allows kids to have their own individual voice. All the while Jen is still a Supermom to her two wonderful boys Jen is a dear friend and in my humble opinion very worthy of the Life Changer of the Year award

Keith Reilly Posted over a year ago

I met Jen a few years ago while taking an NEH class in New York. From the start, Jen was outgoing and fun. I was immediately impressed with her dedication to self-improvement and her passion for teaching. Throughout the week, Jen offered the class examples her creativity and insight into improving the field of education. Jen makes people feel comfortable and is able to bring out the best in everyone she meets. It is my pleasure to support Jen for Lifechanger of the Year. Congratulations.

Laine Cibulskis Posted over a year ago

Honestly, no words can describe the effort that Ms. Gruca puts into every single aspect of her life. She goes above and beyond, not for the good of herself, but for the good of others. Although I have never been a formal student of hers, she will always be one of the most influential teachers, and above all people, that have taught me lessons that you can't learn in a classroom. About three years ago, almost to the day, I walked into my middle school's tryouts for out LTAB team, and my quiet voice and shy demeanor walked in and out of that room within 2 short minutes of pretty off poetry. I didn't make the team that year, but I vowed to myself I would return to the club my eighth grade year with better poems to share, because walking into her classroom that day after school, where I knew absolutely no one, but saw how close everyone was made me realize how important of a community Ms. Gruca had made. I came back the next year with renewed vigor, and I ended up falling in love with the craft and the people in poetry club. But this isn't supposed to be about my journey with poetry or making some team, it's about how my growth and the growth of so many others is because of the home Ms. Gruca gave us to flourish in. At the end of the day, without her, my love and passion for poetry would be nothing compared to what it is today. She has a special kind of quality that sparks creativity in others wherever she goes. She is the only reason I have been able to share some of my deepest struggles with both family, friends, and strangers through my poetry. I thank the world every single day for bringing people like Ms. Gruca here on this Earth, because they make an impact greater than anyone ever could've imagined. So Ms. Gruca, for me, isn't just life changer of the year. She's the life molder. The shaper. The cultivator. Because without her, I don't even know where I'd be today, and I'm sure many many people can agree with that statement. I am so so so thankful for her, and for the joy that she has put into the lives of everyone around her. So truthfully, there's one thing that can describe her: Life Changer of a millennial. For years before and years to come.

Allison Posted over a year ago

I had Ms. Gruca as a teacher many years ago and to this day, her impact as a teacher and friend still shines through me and my writings! 8th grade is a scary time in life but she made her classroom a safe space to be yourself and share your creative side. In 8th grade I was by no means “good” at expressing myself through my writings but she was encouraging and pushed me to challenge myself and I don’t think I would be the writer I am today without her. As a junior in college I can confidently say that Ms. Gruca is a fantastic teacher that leaves an impression on the lives of the students she teaches!!

Kristen Posted over a year ago

Not only is Jen an amazing teacher, she’s an amazing colleague and friend. I’ve been privileged to work with Jen the past 8 years and have seen first hand, the impact she’s made on her students and everyone else around her. Her passion, dedication, thirst for knowledge and overall caring nature makes her a true life changer. The world is a better place with Jen in it and I’m beyond lucky to call her friend.

Holly Switalski Posted over a year ago

I’ve known Jen for 10 years. I covered her maternity leave with her first child. As a new teacher myself, she collaborated with me on the plans while she was gone. Her patience, wisdom, and passion still resonates with me. She taught me how to bring the best out of students. She is a one of a kind educator and an amazing friend.

Sandra L Toton Posted over a year ago

As a young girl, Jen was always looking for new things to explore. As years pasted, I think that she knew that exploring new ideas in order to inspire others needed to be done through teaching which has always been her life time calling. As a teacher she continues to inspire and motavate her young students to explore their love for learning. As a mother, she has held true to her passion by inspiring her boys to follow their dreams with passion. This wonderful woman, mother and teacher is my niece, Jennifer Gruca.

Arianna Posted over a year ago

I met Ms. Jen Gruca my 8th grade year of middle school. On my first day, i could already tell the class (language arts) would be fun and i would love her. She always found a way to switch things up and make learning fun for all of her students, even if she took us out of our comfort zone. She also made it known that she is open arms to all of her students. Her impact in my life, and my other peers will always be memorable. I am now a senior in high school and I still keep in touch with her to this day!!

Caitlin Arquines Posted over a year ago

Jen is an incredible teacher and life mentor. She continually shows up for her students, friends, family, and community with all her support and encouragement. She is absolutely a lifechanger— I wouldn’t be so passionate to use my platform as an artist for social change had I never had her as my teacher to help guide me in impactful writing and expose me to the writer communities I am still a part of today.

Rose Simonelli Posted over a year ago

I’ve known Jen for many years...starting at Heritage Grove where she taught FACS for a few years until her calling opened up as a Lang Arts teacher at JFK. She is kind, caring, a loving mom to her 2 boys and an inspiration to her students. She is open minded and shares her joy & love of teaching with her students everyday. I believe wholeheartedly that she deserves this honor

JD Locke Posted over a year ago

I met Jen on an international tour and we’ve been friends ever since. Jen inspires me because she has been through a lot but doesn’t let that keep her down. She is a wonderful mother to her two boys and is dedicated to promoting understanding and tolerance in her students at school.

Sir James Harris Posted over a year ago

I have known Jen for more than half of my life (over 20 years), and she has always been someone who I have admired because of the person that she is, and everything that she stands for. She has had a tremendous impact in the lives of her students, and in the community. She's a warm, charismatic, affectionate person who you can not help but to want to be around. Jen deserves to win this award not only because of all of her hard work, but because she is the perfect representation of what the Life Changer of the Year award should be about.

Victoria Santowski Posted over a year ago

Ms. Gruca will forever be my absolute favorite teacher. She teaches her students so much and shows us how beautiful life can be. I’m so thankful along with so many other students who have had the privilege of having her as a teacher. She’s had such a huge impact on me and if I had the choice of taking her class again, I would!

Karen Tagtmeyer Posted over a year ago

We are so lucky that our son has Ms. Gruca this year for LA. She is an amazing, caring teacher that goes out of her way to be sure the kids are understanding and truly learning. She is patient, kind and very understanding of all of the different learning styles of each of the students. My son is thriving this year in LA. She deserves to win this award!

Ninfa Lear Posted over a year ago

Since knowing Jen her honesty and willing to improve herself daily is incredible! I thought I was the only crazy one that loves to go to live events to improve myself but nope I have found someone else that shares that same journey?? Her seeking to understand herself better so that she help the world around her is powerful. With that said she takes the time to come way out to Aurora to support the Orchard Community church with her time and talent. She also takes trips around the world each year to give young kids a better understanding of another part of the world which I believe helps them to better appreciate their lives here in America. But most importantly she is a friend of mine that never strays away from being honest with herself and to others, that why I love her! Keeps doing amazing things Jen the world needs it??

Zack Magnuson Posted over a year ago

I've had the privilege of working with Jen for the last 5 years and I have been lucky enough to see the impact she has on her students up close on a daily basis. She finds a way to connect with each student and make a difference in each of their lives. I've never seen so many kids come back to see a teacher before! She truly builds a relationship with each of her students. Her lessons are engaging and creative and I am always hearing about how her class is the kids' favorite class. I don't know how she has the time to create such engaging lessons, run the poetry club, plan an entire Talent Show, organize guest speakers, sponsor a team in the Louder than a Bomb competition, and create amazing international travel opportunities for her students, all while being an amazing mother to her two boys. I know there are a ton of great people nominated for this award but I can't imagine anyone deserves to be recognized more than Jen for all that she does for our school and community.

Stephanie Faraci Posted over a year ago

I have known Jen since high school and was always inspired by her ability to bring peers together in achieve a common goal. I have no doubt that she has honed this skill and brought it to enhance her students' educational experience. I have followed the projects she has developed over social media through the years and could only wish my eighth grade daughter had a teacher 1/2 has great as Jen!

Jabar Robinson Posted over a year ago

Jen has such an infectious personality that lights up a room! It’s a no brainer on why she such an effective & great educator who can reach people. Congrats Jen on your nomination, it’s well deserved.

Michelle Lamson Posted over a year ago

Our son Fred is truly lucky to have Ms. Gruca this year as his 8th grade Language Arts teacher. She is an amazing teacher who inspires her students, connects with them and truly cares about them. We have been so impressed with variety and depth of writing our son has done this year with Ms. Gruca. She absolutely is deserving of this award and recognition!

Joshua Catlow Posted over a year ago

Jen and I have known each other for the better part of 25 years; and I knew early on she was going to be a great conveyor of knowledge and wisdom. She has always been a people person, even back to her early days working at a small amusement park. She used to intertwine differet cliques, who would then enjoy each other's company; Which in and of its self is amazing. Her gregarious personality is infectious and it's no surprise that she has been an influential part of helping to mold the minds of today's youth.

Giselle Medina Posted over a year ago

I had Mrs.Gruca for my 8th grade Language Arts class. Never have I ever been in a class I’ve enjoyed soooo much! Her teaching style was distinct in the matter that she incorporated our work into the real world. It opened our eyes of 8th graders into real world human beings capable of interacting with our world and society. Because of her I learned whats out there, I learned to appreciate all types of art, and most importantly I learned to love my work by expanding my creativity. Mrs.Gruca is human worth celebrating , her value and effect on her students are beyond words. Making her more than applicable for the life changer award, since she certainly impacted mine for the better! Thank You Mrs.Gruca!!

Tammy Sartain Posted over a year ago

Jen is a long time friend! I am always so impressed with her passion for her job, her boys, her students and life overall! Her determined soul is outgoing, learning based and always willing to help others. She is deserving of your funding and I hope she is the winner of the Life Chanber award.

Ryan Argast Posted over a year ago

I know Jen as Ms.Cravens: the ultra sarcastic, clever, and honest FACS teacher who taught me how to sew, cook, and express myself. Though I lost my sewing skills, and my cooking talent has just turned into the love of eating my Fiancé’s cooking, I’ve really come into my own and confident in who I am. She can identify someone’s learning ability and teach them the way they needed to be taught. Even at 7th grade she encouraged my goofy and flashy self to pass FACS by what makes me unique. Thank you for letting me be me and thank you for always being you!

Demetrius Amparan Posted over a year ago

Ms. Gruca has been partnering with my organization, Young Chicago Authors for over 8 years to bring the young people at her school to our poetry festival, Louder Than A Bomb. During this time, I’ve seen her ensure every young person has access to multicultural disciplines as well as the resources they need to find their voices. She is always bringing guest speakers to her classroom and making sure her students feel heard and supported. She’s amazing

Benjamin Williams Posted over a year ago

I met Jen a year after I started the poetry club at Plainfield East. I left for college and came back to help coach the slam team. I had heard great things of her beforehand, but didn’t take them into consideration until I met her. From the moment we spoke and I saw her interact with the fellow club members, I knew she was special. Through my years of teaching and being taught, I’ve come across many of teachers who’ve struggled to build effective and healthy relationships with their students. Yet, as it pertains to Jen, it has come naturally. The biggest reason is because she is willing to not only help her students grow academically, but individually. She takes the time to see each and everyone of them (literally), and guides them to be the best people they can be; no matter how negatively or positively she may view them. As a product of the Plainfield school district myself, I can confidently say, from MY experience, that Jen has been one of the few teachers in the district that has not only helped uplift students inside the classroom, but has cared to challenge their growth outside of it. This is especially the case for the students of color. With the district’s lack of POC teachers, and its imbalance ratio of white to black/brown students, many of its educators have struggled to connect with their minority students. This has left many of these bright young minds isolated and/or unmotivated. Therefore, Jen’s presence has not only been beneficial, but necessary. In all, it has been an extreme honor to collaborate/work with her. And, with out a doubt, she is the best candidate for this award.

Arianne Maxwell Posted over a year ago

Mrs. Gruca has been one of my favorite teachers I have ever had, and as a sophomore in high school, thats saying a lot. I have had so many teachers throughout my years but none of them have changed me in the way that Mrs. Gruca did. She brought the art of poetry into my life. I had been a poet before, but I never knew what to do about it except sit and read it to myself. She helped me learn how to share my work and let the world hear how I feel through not only poetry, but Art in general. I now have so many pieces that I take pride in, whereas i wouldn’t have been able to write them before. Not only is Mrs. Gruca a fabulous teacher and a great Poetry club host, but a friend to me, and all of the other students who she has impacted throughout the years. She has helped those like me with personal struggles to find coping mechanisms that are healthy and benefit society as a whole. She helped us through times of struggle and listened when we talked or wrote. She didn’t just hear us like many teachers do. She listened and looked in between the lines to understand each of her students as individuals instead of a group of random kids she had to teach a lesson to and move on. I don’t know where all of us would be without Mrs. Gruca, and I firmly believe that if anyone in the world deserves this award, it would be her. Thank you.

Dave ODONNELL Posted over a year ago

I love it.. the best accolades you will always hold close are those that come from your students.. Great Teachers are not those with the most students.. Great Teachers are those that create the most Teachers

Mattie Levy Posted over a year ago

Ms. Gruca is the reason why I can call myself a poet today. Without her, I wouldn’t be able to unlock my passion for writing.In her classroom, she creates an environment that is open for discussion and encourages her students to think creatively with daily writing prompts, videos of other spoken word poets, and the insistence that anyone can write. Her teaching goes beyond the classroom, in that she encourages her students to think about social justice and the ways we can contribute into the world we live in.

Durban ripley Posted over a year ago

Jen believes in the transformative power of experiential learning and is paving the way in her district to bring the classroom to life for students through travel!

Isaiah Posted over a year ago

Jen is an amazing educator and advocate for the arts as a learning and development tool for students. Her passion for spoken word poetry and the youth is admirable and influential. Many students view her as a mother and role model; her kind is rare.

Pren Woods Posted over a year ago

Jen, I am keeping up with your nomination and I am not going to lie--I have shed many a tear. Your work with students and your community is beyond the norm. You are incomparable. I marveled at story after story about how you used literature forms to unlock students' emotions and give them a new consciousness. I read, with excitement, how you inspire other teachers in your vast world of professional development opportunities. And then, there are the students, whom you have never taught, who seem to know Ms. Gruca and her magical Midas touch ways. You are truly a gift to our profession. However, I must say selfishly, I am most grateful for you in my life as a friend. That night we had with Elizabeth Eckford, a member of the Little Rock Nine, in Little Rock, Arkansas, three summers ago was surreal. To meet one of the Little Rock Nine with someone of your grace and compassion was just icing on the case. Then, she left us and you and I (and some others) were alone and we shared our personal narratives. You listened to me as I talked about my own identify issues and you praised me. You said, "Wow, thanks for sharing something so personal and relatively new in your life." Thanks, for creating a safer space for me in a dark moment. I feel like, in that instant, you became one of my best friends. Oh, the fun we have had since Little Rock. Ain't nothing like looking for where we parked our car in Chicago. lol

Derek Smith Posted over a year ago

Jen was my 8th grade English teacher. I never had a better one afterwards. I wouldn’t be the person I am today without her. She inspired me to think beyond the limitations of my own understanding; to reach for stars, to dream of traveling amongst them. She’s the reason I aspire to be an author, and every bit deserving of being called a “life-changer”.

Caitlyn Badon Posted over a year ago

When hearing about Ms Grucas nomination I was so excited for her! I had her about 3 years ago for 8th grade English Honors. Though it was just middle school, she treated you like an actual person. She didn’t follow the drill and kill learning style, and certainly wasn’t bland like other teachers I’ve had, instead we talked about our values and put our thoughtfulness into poetry and the power of learning. She valued teaching kids poetry and digging in to a deeper meaning, which has honestly opened me up and allowed me to come outta my shell. I enjoy attending poetry club when I go, and am glad I get the chance to see her and old faces again. It’s amazing to see a teacher with such passion and empathy, and I’m glad I got to experience it.

Michael Luellen Posted over a year ago

Jen Gruca is a true mentor who’s passion for instilling freedom of expression in her students through art and poetry inspired me beyond imagination. Seeing the effect that her and her students had on each other made me realize that I could be doing more. This was a pivotal point in my life where I Sought ways to make a difference in the community. Our interactions led me down the path of volunteering in food pantries and other community outreach projects. Since I’m no poet, she helped me realize that I could use my culinary skill set to make a difference, so while Jen continues to feed the minds and spirits of the youth I feed their Stomachs. 

Sandi Criswell Posted over a year ago

Jenn is a travel and educator friend of mine who I met on a trip abroad. She was a marvelous person to become friends with as she’s kind, curious, and loves to learn about the world around her. Since we’ve stayed in touch, she impresses me with everything she does in her classroom with poetry and reading, and I have no doubt she’s making a huge difference in her students’ lives.

Mia Thiel Posted over a year ago

Ms gruca was my eighth grade language arts teacher. First period might I add which is usually the worst and hardest to stay awake but in her class that wasn’t ever an issue. Everyday I came to her class I learned something more than books and fiction, it was real information and stories that were important and interesting. It was always fun and no one disrupted, everyone was always truly intrigued. She’s such a motivated teacher and so knowledgeable but most importantly she knew how to relay all her knowledge to us students. She joked with us and let us have fun while doing our work. I’m a senior in high school now four years later and I still have yet to find another teacher like Ms gruca. Someone I could go to to talk about the latest drama or lint roll my pants. She was my teacher but kind of my bestie hehe. She deserves all the awards and praise. <3

Joan Fitzgerald Posted over a year ago

I was fortunate to work alongside Jen for ten years at JFK Middle School. She is a master at her craft and a wonderful person as well! She turns the middle school experience into be a positive one in her classroom but also a welcoming experience for years to come. Her students flock back to see her! Jen includes EVERY SINGLE PERSON in her lesson plans, her life choices, her parenting style and in her leadership at JFK. Jen makes decisions based on inclusion of all. The only lens that she knows is one of empathy and inspiration of all walks of life. As a media specialist in her buiding, I saw how easily Jen was able to draw in all levels of learners and perspectives in her well-crafted lessons and classroom discussions. Jen works tirelessly to form deep relationships with students and takes the time to actual know them. Those relationships have allowed Jen's teaching to inspire many students to continue their love of reading and writing but also to become wonderful adults with open minds. Jen is a worthy recipient of your award and she is always a winner in my book!

Kim DiGangi Posted over a year ago

Jen used to be my daughters teacher but became friends and have stayed friends over the years. I can’t think of anyone else more deserving than her! She is so passionate about teaching and enriching the lives of her students..her enthusiasm is contagious and is the very reason kids come back to visit her and stop her outside of the classroom to say hello. Outside of school she continues to encourage kids to look beyond their normal surroundings and encourages them to learn about different places through the travel group she leads. I am proud to call her my friend.

Usman N Posted over a year ago

A teacher I had a long time ago and till this day I am able to talk to about anything and she is willing to go out of her way and help. Best teacher Ive ever had.

Sarah Posted over a year ago

Jen is such an inspirational teacher and lifetime learner. It’s been awesome to call her a friend and watch her love for teaching touch so many!

Emily Posted over a year ago

Jen brings passion and laughter to everything that she does. She keeps it real and connects with people on a deep level. I feel so lucky to know Jen and know that she deserves this honor for her and her students!

Diya Soni Posted over a year ago

Being a former student of Ms. Gruca’s i can say that i’ve learned so much from her not just academically but in every way with life etc. Being in her class was always a great part of my day and i was able to express myself through poetry. Ms. Gruca will always be one of my most inspiring teachers at shes always looking for ways to grow along with pushing her students to grow and be the best they can be. As busy as she is she always finds time to manage school, home, and is always involved in organizing wonderful things like plainfield’s got talent. She will always be an amazing freind, teacher, and mentor and i feel beyond lucky that i had the privilege to have her as a teacher.

Amberly Rodriguez Posted over a year ago

(Continued) She organized powerful poetry events, helped with the student news group, and arranged guest speakers in order to positively impact her students and their time at JFK. Additionally, she continues to keep in contact with previous students because she genuinely cares for every kid that goes through her class. I am a sophomore in college and my brother is a senior in college and we have heard from her on many occasions; she even recently included us in a project she created! Speaking on my brother’s behalf, she changed his perspective completely. When em was young he was a troublemaker in school and was very closed off at home, but once he began writing poetry he found something special that he was excited about and proud to share with the family. I remember when I saw this change in him, I couldn’t wait to be in Ms Gruca’s class! Overall Jen Gruca will always be one of my favorites teachers—one that I’ll never forget! She most definitely deserved this award.

Amberly Rodriguez Posted over a year ago

Jen Gruca is one of those teachers that takes learning to a whole new level. She not only taught me from an educational standpoint, but she taught me from a personal standpoint. The way she teaches creates an environment for students to dig into their emotions and learn about themselves. Through the work done in her class I was able to explore new and creative sides of me I was always to scared to express. She also maintained a meaningful relationship with her students both in and outside of her class. She organized powerful poetry events, helped with the student news group, and arranges guest speakers

Darvin Meas Posted over a year ago

The word that I used to defined Ms. Gruca is Growth. I had the privilege to have her as my language art teacher twice in middle school: once in 6th grade and once more in the 8th grade and I couldn’t be more happier. Compared to Ms. Gruca’s 6th grade counterpart, I feel like she made a huge transformation as she pushes artistry at district 202. From hosting talent shows, formulating team to compete in Chicago’s poetry slam, and welcoming students to showcase their arts. Now, she is able to Push further boundaries by hosting abroad travels offering students a variety of culture while elevating and showcasing her photography skills. Ms. Gruca is ambitious as she pushes artistry on her students as she always see potential. Not only is she growing as a person, but she also want to help others grow into better people by expressing themselves as art. On a personal note, middle school was a depressing time period in my life, and Ms. Gruca exposing me to poetry and teaching me how to express my darkness feelings through writing and art was the therapy I needed at the time. Her welcoming, adventurous, and ambitious nature is what I admired her the most, not just as a teacher, but as a person. Most of her students, will start as little caterpillars but will leave as butterflies because she is a life changer. And that is why she deserve the honor of “Life Changer or the Year”.

Angel Argueta Posted over a year ago

Gruca is an amazing friend, teacher, and person in general.Last year I was fortunate enough to have Jen Gruca as my teacher, and it changed my life in the best way it could. I was taught to use my words and writing into healing, I was introduced to slam poetry which Allowed me to have a voice, which helped me tremendously with my emotional and mental state. I hit my lowest, and gruca helped me find a way to recover from that, and I will forever, be grateful,

Cameron Baltrum Posted over a year ago

Ms. Gruca is truly one of the best teachers at John F Kennedy Middle School that i know. Although I was never a student of hers, I always passed by her room and went in it every few weeks for a visit with a poet. She is truly one of the most energetic and caring teachers you’ll meet. I also had the privilege of going on a trip, with other classmates, to Costa Rica this last summer. She truly made the trip unforgettable, what she had done to plan this trip was truly amazing. We learned so much about the culture. She also was so much fun to be with on the trip. Going on this trip was life changing to be there and see outside the US, and Ms. Gruca allowed for me and 10 other students to go on this trip and have this experience. Ms. Gruca is truly a lifechanger in the way she interacts with her students and cares for them.

Ernie Thrasher Posted over a year ago

As a former student I will say this is hands down the best teacher I’ve had in my years of schooling. She really assisted me in being in touch with my creative side. It was an absolute privilege to be in this class almost six years ago, and I can honestly say we really need more teachers like her. She’s so passionate about her students and it shows. She really treats you like family, and for that I will always love her.

t Posted over a year ago

Ms.Gruca has had to be one of the few teachers who actually motivated me to want to do something other than be on my phone. She showed me there’s so much more to life, than just what’s on a screen. In the hour that I had her every single day she made me aware of something new, whether it was in the world or just something in her class. Not only is she a teacher, she is a friend. She helped me through some of the toughest times I had, she showed me it’s okay to be different and surrounded myself with different people. She’s the type of person to make you feel comfortable going out of your comfort zone. She’s the type of person/teacher everybody needs and should want in their life.

Nikki Cagampang Posted over a year ago

Jen has been a part of my life since 6th grade back in ‘09. She is the first teacher to ever allow and inspire me to turn my feelings into art through writing. Because of her introducing me to poetry, spoken word, and bringing me along to Chicago to attend a writing shop.. i discovered my talent as a songwriter. — Creativity and freedom is what her classroom always consisted of. She gave a voice to every single one of her students and let them know that they are seen, they are heard. She has a way of making everyone comfortable with being vulnerable. I’ll never forget the class where we all made a “Soundtrack to my Life” and we had to explain it in front of the class. Every boy cried talking about the meanings behind the songs they chose. They let their emotions free without shame because they knew that Gruca’s room was a safe place. The fact that she created this environment where everyone feels important and valued is incredible. She was able to break down walls of people I thought were impossible to get through. She is truly something special and I believe she is a gift from above. She is love, laughter, joy, and acceptance. No matter who you are, she will embrace you with open arms and love you for you. She’s changed my life for the better. She believed in me. She’s given me and many others so many opportunities to flourish and still does to this day. Jen continues to inspire others and impact the lives of today’s children. She is so selfless and is always expanding the minds of the youth. I don’t know anyone more deserving of this award than this woman.

Nadia Munir Posted over a year ago

Ms. Gruca is such an inspiring women to all of her peers. She never fails to help her students and show them the impact they have in their community. She deserves so much praise and recognition for all of her hard work!

D. Day Posted over a year ago

Jennifer Gruca is one of the most committed and creative teachers I have ever worked along side. Her students are impacted by her passion and innovative teaching style. She connects curriculum with professional practices by introducing the students to authors, poets, and politicians throughout the year. The students are also given various opportunities to showcase writings and other artistic performances at district and city wide competitions (i.e. Louder than a Bomb Poet competition). She also sponsors the school poetry club to encourage students to hone in on writing skills and the use of literary devices within poems and story telling. Her dedication to positively influencing her students is undeniable. Please strongly consider Jennifer Gruca for the life changer award. Thank you!

Dedee Posted over a year ago

Hands down best teacher I ever had ! I had Ms.Gruca in 6,7,and 8th grade ! Best 3 years of middle school was because of her ! Not only was she an awesome teacher , she is a great friend . It’s not many teacher u could say that about ! Ms.Gruca has a heart of gold and deserve any an every award . I love her to death and wish her nothing but success keep challenging the world and encouraging others to do so to ! I love yuh -Dedee Powell

yasmin allison Posted over a year ago

last year i was honored to have ms. gruca as my 8th grade language arts teacher. She has helped me higher my self confidence. because of her i can present in front of my classmates. i thank her for always being there when i needed somebody to talk to .

Graci Trillo Posted over a year ago

Ms. Gruca teaches beyond language arts. She teaches you about life. She has changed the way so many young minds view the world through the opportunities, experiences, and valuable lessons she offers not only her students, but anyone lucky enough to know her. She sees something in you even if you don’t see it in yourself and she has such a beautiful perspective on everything that comes her way. She has had the greatest impact on my life as well as others and no one deserves this more than this amazing teacher, mother, and artist. <3 :)

Brittney Bocian Posted over a year ago

I am a senior in college and I STILL remember how much Ms. Gruca cared about her students and our well being. She has always been a person of compassion and someone who actually cares about her job. She not only impacts the minds of young students, creates memories that her students will never forget. She taught me to stand up for what I believe in and to always think critically which has aided in my academic success. I cannot thank her enough for the support she gave me. Ms. Gruca is so worthy of this award.

Jensen Bridges Posted over a year ago

3 years ago I went in to Mrs. Grucas class expecting just another year of English. Mrs. Grucas daily enthusiasm and determination for her students success kept me going and helped me become the person I am today. My initial assumptions were the complete opposite of that year in English. We talked about real world events going on and I learned to actually enjoy poetry which I thought could never happen. I thank Mrs. Gruca for helping me through my eighth grade year and putting up with my shenanigans (like breaking her chair by accident). Mrs. Gruca really deserves this award.

Dustin Brannon Posted over a year ago

I cannot imagine anyone who is more deserving of the Life Changer of the Year award than Ms. Jen Gruca. She embodies everything this award is set up to recognize. She goes above and beyond both inside the walls of her classroom and across international borders to give her students the life changing experiences they crave. I had the privilege of working with Ms. Gruca at a summer institute for teachers a few years back. It was here I realized she was more than just a participant in a workshop. She was there to bring back as much information/experiences to her students as she possibly could. She has truly impacted my every day teaching more than she could ever know. Another example of how Jen is changing the lives of those around her is her willingness to lead expeditions for individuals in her community across international borders. At the end of the day, Ms. Gruca effects the lives of her friends, family, students, community members, and even students abroad which she will never meet. She is so deserving of this distinguished award because she is spending her life changing the course of so many others!

Robert Alexander Posted over a year ago

I couldn't be more grateful and thankful for an individual such as Jen Cravens. What an inspiration she has been for me and SO many others. It is a great honor to call Jen a friend.

Brooke Scott Posted over a year ago

Ms. Gruca changed my life from the second I walked into her classroom on the first day of eighth grade. That year was one of the hardest years for me because my anxiety was the worst it had ever been. It was the year I really opened up about it and finally recognized my struggle. Ms. Gruca encouraged my poetry which just started as a weekly assignment. Through her help, I was able to dig deep and discover emotions I never realized were inside of me. It was truly frightening, but she showed me that’s it’s ok to struggle and taught me how to express myself in poetry. For that, I will always be thankful and I hold a special place in my heart for Ms. Gruca. This might sound cheesy, but I do and will always say that Ms. Gruca is my favorite teacher not because of what she taught me about eighth grade english, but what she taught me about the world and finding out your inner beauty despite your pain. Life changer only begins to describe the wonderful person Ms. Gruca is.

Amber Nickel Posted over a year ago

Jen, A teacher by trade, mentor for life...this is Jen Gruca. She brings her students to a level of acceptance, self-identity, empathy, and confidence like no other teacher I have ever encountered. Whether in her classroom or traveling across the world or attending contests, Jen inspires, challenges, and transforms her students establishing lifelong memory makers. She is the students' anchor in finding their voice in spoken, visual, or verbal form, which is evidenced by her district wide Plainfield's Got Talent event. While teachable moments come naturally in the classes, Jen expands these opportunities out into the community with our school's WE Day participation to shift the focus from an individual to the power of the community. She strives for students to do good through their everyday choices.

Cecelia McGuire Posted over a year ago

Last year, I luckily found myself in a position as one of Ms. Gruca's students. She was always a teacher I knew I could confide in. She continuously motivated me to keep my grades in check and to do things I might not have thought I'd ever do; such as join the poetry club. Speaking in front of the people there had to be one of the most nerve wracking things I've ever done, cause it was every emotion I had in me about a specific topic on a sheet of paper. But I always knew Ms. Gruca had my back, no matter how jumbled my words got. I always felt as if she had a stronger connection with her students, because she has related to us, made us laugh, and always took time to understand us. She took time to understand, and learn about who we are, so with that I can confidently say that without a doubt she has most definitely changed my life.

Carlie Shrupsha Posted over a year ago

Ms. Gruca has been a constant light in the lives of both her current and former students. Her encouraging words and determination to make each and every one of her students feel comfortable amongst their peers has inspired many kids and adults, as well as myself, to step outside of their comfort zones and test the waters of experiences they never once believed were within reach. Having her as a teacher nearly 6 years ago taught me the importance of diversity and expression in my early teen years and the values she taught me still stick with me today. I couldn’t be happier that my younger sister now has the opportunity to learn from her as well. Ms. Gruca, thank you for all you have done and continue to do for the people around you. I could not think of a more deserving recipient of this award!

Alexa Gangoso Posted over a year ago

Being a former student of hers, I always remember Ms. Gruca as my favorite teacher from my entire three years of middle school. I definitely was never the best at the subject of language arts, nor learning about literature and all that pertains to it, but not gonna lie, I THRIVED in Ms. Gruca’s class, and I for sure saw a difference in my ability to comprehend and understand what in the world I was given. Ms. Gruca also really not only helped me better in the subject, but also just made me feel so comfortable in such a vulnerable environment that is middle school. She has such a genuine and caring personality that really helped me get through my chaotic language arts class and through difficult times in general. Love ya Ms. Gruca??

Norah Fischer Posted over a year ago

Walking into an english class in 8th grade by stereotypes, seemed like the last thing i ever wanted to do. It was a class i struggled in and never seemed to understand, i didn’t understand the relevancy of any of it, i just needed to learn what i needed to grow up and live a happy life. So i walked into that classroom with a closed off mind. Until Mrs. Gruca began to speak. She talked to us and had genuine conversations, and she actually listened. she connected lessons to real life, shared music interests and inspired everyone to write and open our minds to these different things. I will be forever be grateful for her and the things she has taught me. She taught me how to write down things to organize them and help me collect myself in stressful situations, which overall has saved me so many times. She taught me how to open back up to people and make real friends that are genuinely good people that i still have around me three years later. She always has a positive vibe and is never one to judge. i’ve seen some of the worst behaved people in my class go into that classroom and come out with nothing but respect for and the same in return. She is a great person to be around and i had the honor of being a student of hers. I would now consider her a friend, and an idol. If anyone deserves this award it should be her, she has never failed to inspire and welcome everyone.

Jamese Ruffin Posted over a year ago

Ms. Gruca was my absolute favorite teacher in 8th grade. Being the best language arts teacher by always listening to any concerns, helping all of the students with whatever they needed help with as well as supporting creativity with different engaging activities involving different artists in music and in poetry. She made class more enjoyable and a safe place. I still keep in touch with Ms. Gruca today and let her know how life is going as well as follow her accomplishments. It was such a pleasure being a student of someone with the attributes that she has. Life changer is only one of the things on the list of amazing things she has done for me and my life, and that was all through a language arts class. She could have strictly taught her students the curriculum and left it at that, but she developed a relationship with all of them to help with succeeding, and I definitely cannot thank her enough.

Gabriela Felczak Posted over a year ago

I had a lucky year when I got Ms.Gruca as a teacher, a teacher who dedicated her time to support the students who were struggling and encourage the ones that were on the right track. Not many teachers have a gift to educate with such passion like how Ms.Gruca has, she takes her own life experiences and growing knowledge of the world to set up every student for success in the future including their high school careers and life’s after high school. A teacher who creates opportunities for students to learn outside of the curriculum and observe the real world through trips around the world. I will always remember Ms.Gruca for her love and passion for books, literature and the world itself, truly an incredible soul that gave us the honor of being in her presence.

Jerome Posted over a year ago

Ms. Gruca was a big part of my last year in middle school. She pushed her class to go beyond the norms and create pieces of work that if nothing else meant something to us. She was a great teacher who always put her students first and made learning and writing fun. Finally Ms. Gruca wasn’t just a teacher to her class, but one a friend to everyone who entered her classroom. I can’t thank her enough for everything she did for me as a student and a person

Lauren Posted over a year ago

Ms.Gruca was an amazing language arts teacher! She’s so caring and is always there for her students. She made the class a welcoming, and fun place to be! She wanted the best of each and every student and brought our school and community amazing opportunities. I had the privilege to be in Ms. Gruca’s class, and this class really showed me to be who I am, and I blossomed as a student and a person.

masey Danker Posted over a year ago

Ms. Gruca not only prepared me for high school but showed me what a caring individual looks like. She guided me through one of the toughest years of middle school and prepared and showed not just me but many others how to become a genuine and respectful human. She is a romodel and a wonderful teacher. Thank you for everything you have done for not just me but many students and staff.

Czarina Posted over a year ago

Ms. Gruca was my eighth grade teacher. She educates students far beyond what grammar textbooks could offer. She teaches the power of expression, the importance of open mindedness and education. She values every single one of her students, and only wants the best for all of them, old and new. Ms. Gruca expands minds, and leaves an impact on everyone she meets and works with. How she is able to do all of this for so many people just goes to show that she is nothing short of the best. Absolutely magical. Love you Ms. Gruca!

Matt Ramos Posted over a year ago

I don’t even know where to begin but mrs. Gruca is one of my favorite teachers of all time. She helped me express my emotions in my writing and to put my feelings into a work of art. I now attend the University of Minnesota and I wanted to thank her so much because she helped me so much with speaking and writing. She is very hard working, persistent, very good with students, and very inspirational.

Austin Bolton Posted over a year ago

13 years ago I took Ms. Grucas english class. It feels like just yestersay she was in the classroom getting me excited with her energetic personality. I'm not sure if she knows this or not but she made a lasting impact on my life. I'm currently teaching World History in North Dakota. I think back to that english classroom and how she had a charismatic aura around her. I try to bring that energy and passion everyday to my classroom. I appreciate everything you have done and continue to do as an educator!

Chloe Borsellino Posted over a year ago

Eighth grade year I had Ms. Gruca as my language arts teacher. She was nothing but THERE for her students. She continuously showed us that there’s more to this life than what we can see with our own two eyes. She made class seem as if it could be a home away from home for her students. I had never WANTED to go to any class throughout my day other than hers. She inspired many students to put the way they felt or the things they were going through into some form of poetry. The amount of support she had given us was unbelievable. Ms. Gruca had so much love for not only the things she was teaching but also for every single one of her students. It’s almost as if she was the light at the end of the tunnel even when it didn’t seem as if I could find my way out. I wouldn’t be giving her the credit she deserves if I didn’t say she was a life changer.

Alex e Posted over a year ago

Get this dub ms gruca u deserve it for all the hard work u put in to your students

Alondra Pinto Posted over a year ago

Gosh, what an amazing teacher. I've been in school for a long time and I've had countless teachers and none of them compare to Ms.Gruca. The way she teaches makes any kid wanna be in her class and as a person she's an amazing friend to have. I don't think I would've pursued becoming a teacher if it wouldn't have been for Ms.Gruca. This award, well, it was definitely made for her! Love you Gruca!

John Czarney Posted over a year ago

Ms. Gruca was my LA teacher 3 years ago in 8th grade. She is one of my favorite teachers ever and I am very blessed for all the valuable information and skills i’ve acquired from her class. She is an amazing teacher and an amazing person. She always helps her students understand what they’re doing and supports them nonetheless. From really introducing our class deeper into poetry to me breaking a lawn chair in her class, I really appreciated everything she has done for me and the class in general. Life changer is one of many words to describe Ms. Gruca and everything she stands for.

Kendell Godina Posted over a year ago

Ms. Gruca was one of the best teachers I have ever had. While being a sophomore in college, some of the things that Ms. Gruca taught me have stuck with me throughout the past six years. She has had such a great impact on my life and has influenced me to achieve my goals, despite any hardships. I am so grateful to have been one of her students. She is more than a great teacher; she is a wonderful human being and deserves everything that she works hard for.

Mary Alexander-Basta Posted over a year ago

You know a teacher is amazing when Students enjoy & learn in class as well as like the teacher, that’s exactly how Jen is she makes learning understandable & fun. She always has an amazing warming smile that brightens the halls when I see her. Her impact on students is a lasting one!

Rayne Branch Posted over a year ago

In 8th grade while I didnt have Ms. Gruca as a teacher I joined my middle school's poetry club which she was in charge of and right it was the best decision I had ever made. Thank you Ms. Gruca for letting me be myself and introducing to so many wonderful things through poetry club You are so fun and one of the nicest and kindest teachers I have ever met. You Definitely Changed my life and for that I will forever be grateful ??

Lillyana Howe Posted over a year ago

I had Ms.Gruca two years ago and she previously had my sister. I remember she asked me if I was related to my sister and I said yes. Even after not having my sister for six years, she still remembered who she is and kept in contact with her. She has always cared for her students deeply and touched the lives of many kids. Being one of her former students I will always be grateful to say that I had her as my eighth grade language arts teacher for she has always been there for my friends and I when we needed her most. She’s an amazing person and overall a great person to be around. I can’t recall a single bad day in her class.

Dina Posted over a year ago

I had my Ms. Gruca as an English teacher in eighth grade. During that time, she was the one who introduced me to spoken Word poetry, and to this day, it is one of my favorite things. Once I got to college, I even participated as an editor for a nationally recognized Journal in which I was an editor for the poetry section. This decision was greatly impacted by the fact that she introduced me to poetry several years prior. I believe it she deserves this award because of the impact that she had on myself as well as other students. In discussion with other students, we all recognize that she has had an impact on us that we will never forget.

Michael O’Connor Posted over a year ago

8 years ago I was lucky enough to be one of Mrs. Gruca’s students. Language arts/English has never been a strong subject of study for myself. However, she brought out inspiration in me that I didn’t know I had. She taught me that I had the capability of being confident in myself through speaking. I have never met such a kind and forgiving soul and I will always see her as my number one role model. She will always have a special place in my heart because she is hands down the best teacher I’ve ever had. She teaches more than school subjects and required literature. She teaches everyone the art of expressing themselves through creativity and writing. She is someone that everyone should meet or at least aspire to have the qualities that she expresses to all of her students, present and past. I love you Mrs. Gruca, I couldn’t think of anyone more deserving of this award.

mazie gierat Posted over a year ago

mrs. gruca was one of my favorite teachers throughout middle school. she was able to teach us not just curriculum given, but how we can make the world a better place. she also let us explore our creativity in writing and i was able to feel proud of every prompt o had written. she made all her students feel like one of her own and cared for us all so much. that’s what a life changer is.

Obinna Ohale Posted over a year ago

Ms. Gruca has been an amazing teacher to talk to through the years. She Is friends with my older sister who introduced me to Ms. Gruca. Thanks to her I found love in poetry which took me to semi finals in a poetry competition. If it wasn’t for this amazing teacher I wouldn’t be the student I am today. I am truly motivated and inspired by Ms. Gruca every time I met with her.

Niyah Rivera Posted over a year ago

Last year i was blessed withe the opportunity to have Ms.Gruca as a teacher and it was the best class i have ever been in. She really opened my eyes into the world of poetry and changed my perspective on it. She always had something interesting and challenging to put on the table which made it even better. She has truly made me a better writer. Ms.Gruca never gave up on any of her students and always supports us in anyway she possibly could. When she brought me into the world of poetry it started to interest me and really got me into it. The different styles she introduced me too were wild to me in which i never thought I would like them. Poems were a way i could express myself whether it be for an assignment or on my own I was able to get things out in ways that could not be spoken. Although she was only my teacher for a short amount of time she changed the course of my life for better and I will always know that a piece of paper and a pencil can do big things. Love you Ms.Gruca.

Ahmed Rizvi Posted over a year ago

Ms Gruca was my teacher as well as my brother's. Top 5 greatest teacher Ive had. Amazing educater. Even better soul. She made me love books and my brother love poems. That says a lot let me just say. Always got a special place in my heart for Jen ?

Drew Scieszka Posted over a year ago

Ms Gruca is a wonderful teacher and and excellent mentor for the future she does so much for her students and opens so many opportunities for them. As my time as a student of hers she looked out for me and reached when I dropped to my lowest. She reached out and spoke to me and helped me through recovery and back into the school setting. I am beyond grateful to have had her as a teacher and a true figure to look up to. Again she is truly amazing and teaches everyone she know.

Jasmine Wissinger Posted over a year ago

My younger brother and I had the pleasure of being students of Ms. Gruca. We both had amazing experiences in her classroom. One thing I remember the most about her was writing a letter to my “Senior self” while in her 8th grade class. Opening that letter my senior year was so eye opening. It was great to look back on what dreams I had in 8th grade that i accomplished by my senior year. Ms. Gruca cares about her students and wants to prepare them for their future. She did that for my brother and I, and we are forever grateful!

Kim Jefferson Posted over a year ago

One word to describe Jen Gruca is Amazing. She is amazing to her students who year after year say that she is their favorite teacher. She is amazing to other teachers in the district by being so creative and inspiring with her lessons and involvement with her students. She is also amazing to her community by providing them with educational travel opportunities that they never imagined could be possible. She does so much for other s but still finds a way to make herself better as an educator each year. She inspires me as an educator to want to be more like her.

Joe Lewicki Posted over a year ago

I was never one that was ecstatic or excited for school. I only went because my friends were there. I always thought it was a time to show my humor and show off. Until I joined Mrs. Gruca’s 8th grade LA class. It was life changing and eye opening to say the least. Walking into the room was like walking into a gorgeous literature dreamland with posters and books and prior students work. You could feel the mood shift from dull and boring middle school to an elaborate set up class room where a teacher rarely sat at her desk and interacted with her students endlessly. You could tell she loved her job. She saw the potential in me and pushed me in a way that made me want to strive to make myself better. I had some of my best times in that classroom and put my heart and soul into some of the papers I wrote for Mrs. Gruca to try and prove to her that I could write with my full potential. But she knew that I was already. I loved that class. And I since being in the US Navy for 6 years now. She is the ONLY teacher I have gone back to meet along with the current class she was teaching. A complete life changer. No one else deserves this award more then her. I wouldn’t be where I was today without her life changing inspiration, motivation and determination to me and her student.

Alberto Salas Posted over a year ago

Ms. Gruca has had a huge positive influence in my life. I am 24 years old currently and to this day I still use many of the great life skills and thoughts that she helped me develop when I was only 13 years old in her class. She always has and continues to go above and beyond for her students and her community. Her efforts have gone above the norm and continue to make an impact to this day. I cannot think of a better candidate for this recognition. Thank you Ms.Gruca for being such a great person and probably the best teacher I have ever had.

Tammy Helfrich Posted over a year ago

Jen is definitely a lifechanger! She is passionate about kids and exposing them to adventure and living life fully. She is always willing to help out when needed and brings a zest of life to everything she does. I’d love to see her win this honor! It’s well deserved!

Stephanie Posted over a year ago

I am always amazed by the wonderful experiences she provides for her students to enrich their lives, show them the world, and promote peace! She definitely is worthy of this award! Congrats Ms. Gruca!

Brian McDermott Posted over a year ago

I’ve known Jen since High School. Watching how she helps her students is inspiring. I can’t remember any teacher in all my years that did as much for their students as her. She is truly making a difference in her classroom and the kids in her class will forever be better for having experienced a teacher of her character. Changing the world one student at a time!

Derrick Posted over a year ago

Jen, I am so not surprised that you are nominated for the “Life Changer” Award. If I had award to give to you, that would be it! Hell, you did it to me and for a while I refused to believe you did; now, I have no choice but to submit to the fact that you did. Kudos to you. Go get YOUR award, Girl!

Kady Fairfield Posted over a year ago

Jen Gruca is an absolute delight to be around. She exudes positive vibes, and her kindness is contagious. Gruca started the Poetry Club at the middle school (JFK) that feeds into the high school where I work. She built a beautiful space where students learn to feel comfortable and confident expressing their innermost feelings via writing and spoken word. This Poetry Club that she started *IS* life changing for our students. Not only that, but I firmly believe that this program that she started SAVES LIVES. I am incredibly grateful for the positive impact that she has on her students, her colleagues, and her community.

Kathy Merz Posted over a year ago

Jen is a fantastic teacher! I have been working with for about 14 years now and she never ceases to amaze me with her passion for teaching, her students, and her language arts classroom. She spends countless hours prepping and preparing for each day like it's a new day. She has always has her students best interest at heart and it shows in her lesson plans throughout the year esp. how she incorporates writing and poetry within her classes. Two of the most feared topics many middle school students dislike until their experience in Jen's class. I've seen students expand their vocabulary, look and see things in a different light, and express their emotions and comprehension through their voice, written papers, art, and even song. How she captivates her students through motivating them to their fullest potential (even beyond 8th grade) to see the world in various ways shows when they talk about what they are doing in her class or their work they share with other teachers, and for many it is life changing. Not only does she peek students interest but she also has her colleagues best interest everyday too. She is always willing to lend a hand and encourage all who work with her. She does so much for her students, co-workers, and our school (Poetry Club, Talent Show, Louder Than a Bomb, etc...just to name a few) that she is so deserving of this award and I'm proud to be able to work with her for so many years!

Savannah Downing Posted over a year ago

Words cannot describe the importance of this lady in my life but I will try. Aside from caring for her two lovely boys, Jen Gruca cares for her other family of english and poetry students at her middle school that she teaches at. She puts in 150% when it comes to working with the children one on one and shaping them to be their best selves. I was one of the lucky ones who got to experience what it is like to have her as my teacher. She’s given us students not only knowledge but life experiences. Gruca is a beautiful women who cares for each of us differently and she’s is like a second mom to me. She has been in my life through the tough moments and has shared the good ones. She always finds time to talk about life and guide me through it. She has shown me how to be a better writer as well as a better friend. In only the 4 years I’ve known her she has completely turned my life around using art and poetry. I have found a new love and meaning of the arts when Jen came into my life. I look up to her as a life model. She is the perfect example of what it is like to love everyone no matter of their story and where they came from. She has changed my life for all good and I will forever be so grateful for her.

Megan I Posted over a year ago

Ms. Gruca was my eighth grade teacher 3 years ago, and that year forever changed my life. Coming to school everyday was for me, amazing because 7th period I got to see my favorite teacher. She has inspired me to be the best that I can be, she introduced me to poetry and I have been in love with it ever since. Ms. Gruca deserves only happiness and love because that is exactly was she gives to others. She is the nicest person I have ever met and I am forever grateful for her kindness and understanding! Ms. Gruca deserves this award 1000%!!

Jackie Pieroni Posted over a year ago

I have taught in the same building with Jen going on 5 years. In those 5 years, I have witnessed Jen reach every type of student that has entered her classroom. You will not meet a more dedicated teacher than Jen. She inspires her students to dig deeper and find the bigger purpose in all their work. I am truly inspired by her teaching and try to incorporate her strategies in my every day teaching as well. Thank you Jen for all you do! I am honored to share the hall of JFK with you!

Jen webb Posted over a year ago

Jen Gruca has been such an inspiration to her students and staff. Jen is not your traditional teacher she has a way of inspiring her students to learn and express themselves in ways that middle schoolers are not accustomed to. She reaches reluctant learners and forms connections that give students the ability to reach beyond themselves. Jen has formed a poetry club at our school that brings students back years after they have graduated. She has even created a series of workshops between students, teachers, and well known local poets and artists. Jen has even inspired the spirit of travel in many of her students as she organizes trips abroad. These trips have enabled her students to become more worldly. Jen is truly a life changer to so many.

Amy Cox Posted over a year ago

I am fortunate to call Jen my colleague for the past eight years. The passion she brings to her classroom is commendable, and one that is well deserving of the highest recognition. As an educator, I know how imperative it is to foster positive relationships with students and create a climate where students feel safe and are comfortable taking risks in their learning because they trust the teacher. Every teacher would benefit from watching Jen teach because she connects with students and builds a learning environment where all students are successful. She is an incredibly humble person who cares deeply about all the students she teaches. We are very fortunate to know and work with Jen!

Bridget Concepcion Posted over a year ago

Jen has touched so many hearts of young minds! She puts her whole self into teaching and shaping our students, inspiring them to go beyond the ordinary. She helps them see education through a new lens and opens doors for them they never knew they could. She is there for them years after they have left her classroom, her footprints have an everlasting effect. She wholeheartedly is deserving of this award!

Khaled Abdo Posted over a year ago

3 years ago, I had the fortunate blessing of having Ms. Gruca as my eighth grade teacher and the experience has drastically changed the course of my life for the better. It was here I was first introduced to Slam Poetry and encouraged to find my voice. Through Slam Poetry and performance, I was gifted the tools to cope with any adversity life could throw at me. I learned how to write my way through life's challenges. The ability to create art in the face of adversity has become a fundamental part of who I am. Ms. Gruca is revolutionizing the way English is taught by making it accessible. Rather than placing classic literature on a pedestal for us to admire from afar, Ms. Guca makes the work interactive. Throughout the year, multiple contemporary artists are brought in to workshop with students; wherein we learn how to truly appreciate art and understand we too have voices that can contribute to the conversation. Hardworking is not a strong enough adjective to account for what Ms. Gruca does. Rather, count the infinite candles burnt from both ends and you will learn that is only the tip of the iceberg. It is known our educators shape future generations and I am ecstatic to see what they'll become with Ms. Gruca teaching. Life Changer is an understatement.

Malia Gamen Posted over a year ago

As a former student I can say that I have never been more motivated, or interested in a class than I was in Ms. Gruca’s. She does nothing but support and encourage every single student that passes through her class. She is such a huge advocate in students finding what they are passionate about, and more importantly is there to help students voices be heard. Ive now graduated high school, and college and still to this day have never had a teacher help me find my voice and use it as well as she did. I feel grateful to have been placed in her class years ago and now have the privilege of being her friend. Love you Ms. Gruca & nobody deserves this award more than you do!

Ingrid Bridges Posted over a year ago

Inspiring an adolescent boy to appreciate poetry and become socially responsible is a challenging feat. Ms. Gruca’s approach transcends teaching because everything she does she does with passion and authenticity. Her students know this and that is why many of them continue to learn from her lessons years after they exit middle school. Her passion is contagious and the impact that she makes on young minds is eternal.

Jody Litkenhus Posted over a year ago

A colleague for 10 years and a friend just as long. Jen has inspired me and changed my teaching in many ways. She strives to make students and colleagues better and makes sure everyone feels included and loved. Nobody deserves this award more.

Emma Geiger Posted over a year ago

Ms. Gruca is a wonderful teacher and person. She is so involved and committed to each and every one of her students, and truly wants the best for them. I had the privilege to be in Ms. Gruca’s classroom and I blossomed as both a student and a human being. She gives our school and the community amazing opportunities that brings the learning dynamic to a whole new level.

Baraa Rashid Posted over a year ago

I have had the amazing privilege to have Ms.Gruca as a teacher for two years: once in 6th grade and again in 8th. When I found out Ms. Gruca was going to be my 8th grade Language Arts teacher, I was beyond thrilled. It has been over 10 years now since I was a student in her classroom; I still think of her as my forever teacher! She is one of my biggest inspirations that led me to pursue a career in English/Language Arts Education. I even reached out to her when I was learning to become a teacher to help me feel prepared for what I was going into. She has been with me each step of the way these past 13 years, giving me guidance and inspirations to become a great teacher like her!

Mary Beth Donnelly Posted over a year ago

I had the privilege of meeting Jen Gruca at a fabulous and inspiring summer seminar in 2018. She is a creative, insightful, and thoughtful human being—and displays passion for her students and for social justice. The world is a better place with Jen in it!

Holli Long Posted over a year ago

I am fortunate to teach across the hall from Jen. Her passion for teaching and storytelling inspires not only her students, but also her fellow teachers. Thanks to Jen’s tireless efforts, our students are exposed to monthly workshops with amazing poets and artists from the Chicagoland area. Her Poetry Club is a safe haven and nurturing space for so many gifted and passionate kids who are every day finding their voice and telling their story. We are so lucky to have her as a friend and colleague. ??

Lauryn Baskin Posted over a year ago

Wow where do I even begin when it comes to Ms.Gruca? Well I’ll start off with a thank you! Thank you for allowing me to be myself in the classroom. Thank you for teaching me how to express my feelings onto paper and create beautiful pieces. I am forever grateful for the year I spent in her classroom. She has been more then a teacher but someone who inspires you to want to make a difference in the world. Keep it up Gruca! I love you so much

Nichole Posted over a year ago

Being in education, I’ve seen many a teacher. The work is hard, long and often lonely. The energy you show and extra mile you’ve displayed should be acknowledged and rewarded.

Margaret Berry Posted over a year ago

I have had the privilege of working with Jen my entire career. I witness daily the impact she has in students and her coworkers. She always puts the students first. She has given the students a forum in which The students feel like they have a voice through poetry and writing. I admire her kindness, I admire her work ethic and energy. She has been a treasure to work with each and every day.

John Ocampo Posted over a year ago

As an amazing teacher with an immeasurable passion to change students lives, Jen Gruca has shown myself and hundreds of others there’s more to education than homework and due dates. Being a shy and confused adolescent, Jen taught me how to not only learn from the influence of others, but to become that source of guidance myself. She’s taken me and my fellow peers on several journeys ranging from the city of Chicago to different countries just to allow us to understand and celebrate cultural differences. Jen is an educator who turned me, a timid boy with a writing hobby, into a stage poet with a work ethnic greater than he’d ever imagine having. So for that, I’m so grateful and happy to see her endeavors turn into well deserved achievements.

Binkey Posted over a year ago

I hope you're recognized for the lives you've changed in all the beautiful ways that you have Jen! Amazing you are!! Y am I taking like Yoda?!

Sam Kaczmarek Posted over a year ago

Ms. Gruca changes the life of every student that comes through her classroom (including mine). She provides an enriching environment for them to grow and experience everything the world has to offer. She offers a platform for everyone to share their voice and talents. By bringing in artists to the classroom, she gives each student a chance to see what spoken word and art can do. Her dedication to teaching is unmatched. She teaches each student to be creative and to seek new adventures. I am so thankful to have had her as a teacher, as she’s made my life so much better and given me so many opportunities that I never would have had without her.

Colleen Ennis Posted over a year ago

I met Jen a few years ago while at a Civil Rights education program. Right away, we became friends, and she became my confidant throughout the program. I was instantly amazed by what she does in her classroom and her dedication to her students and their learning. I continue to be amazed by her ability to connect with her students and shows them how what they learn can be applied in real life. The speakers she gets to visit with her class, are amazing and impressive. Above all, she’s a genuine person who truly love the art of what she does and the students who are lucky enough to benefit from her teaching and leadership.

Brooke Posted over a year ago

You changed my life so much.... we shared a bed! I am proud of you! You love what you do and it shows through the work that you do for the students! Thanks for coming into my life.

Katie Orenberg Posted over a year ago

Jen allows her students (and all whom she meets) to come as they are. In her classroom, there is room for every student to use their unique gifts to show their learning. She IS a lifechanger, and to be recognized for it is so special and well-deserved; I am proud to know her.

Hallie Moline Posted over a year ago

You so have earned this & you should definitely receive such an honor ~ the most Best Mom , Best Woman & No doubt an Awesome teacher. You’re Amazing Jen ??

Nikysha D. Gilliam Posted over a year ago

I met Jen a few years ago at a weeklong workshop on the Mississippi Delta: Music, History, and Culture. What impressed me most about her is not what she did at the workshop, because teachers have the ability to present well, but what she did within the confines of her classroom and how she dared to introduce her students to the world beyond their community. Her classroom is a library, a vibrant and homey resource and refuge for her students to be edified, empowered, loved, and nurtured. She challenges her students to find their voices and their passions, and connect with the world in creative ways. She breaks down the walls of her classroom by bringing in speakers and authors to work with her students. In short, she is amazing and I am so honored to know her! She makes me want to be a better educator! I’m grateful for the love and care that she lavishes on her students!

Breann Johnston Posted over a year ago

I met Jen at a workshop in Cleveland, Mississippi about the history, culture, and music of the Delta. I could tell right away that she was a dedicated teacher and mother. Her amazing accomplishments with her two boys as a single mom is beautiful and inspiring! They are well-rounded, independent boys who love their mom. As a teacher, Jen takes her responsibilities very seriously. She goes above and beyond to bring guest speakers into her classroom, plan and participate in afterschool events for students, and keep up with where her students are in life. Jen changes lives every day for sure!