Position: Fifth Grade Teacher
School: Three Rivers Elementary School
School District: Pasco School District
City, State: Pasco, WA
Music that Describes Jennifer
Jennifer Collins was nominated by Trevor Macduff, the parent of a student.
“My daughter is attending Gonzaga University. This may not seem like an intro to Dr. Collins and the way that she is a LifeChanger, because it’s not. This is the crescendo of her impact in our lives coming to fruition,” explains Macduff. “We adopted my daughter overseas before she was four years old. She...arrived in our home with substantial physical and cognitive delays, along with a general trepidation of the world. We enrolled her into school as soon as we were able, but kept her back a year from her age group to give her that extra chance to catch up with her peers. In spite of this, she still qualified for an extensive IEP, was bullied on the playground, and had her worldview reinforced that she was a small cog in a large, faceless machine of life. We were literally watching our daughter spiral into what we feared would be a life of insecurity topped off with various academic labels excusing her delays."
"During her third grade year, we transferred to a new school and heard about the amazing Dr. Collins with a looping 4-5 classroom," said Macduff. "Dr. Collins had just enrolled in her PhD program and was modeling personal excellence in pursuing the highest degree in academia while transforming the lives of countless children and staff. We pushed to get our daughter into her class, and we began to be amazed at how her life was changed."
"As adoptive parents, my wife and I have worked hard to seek a network of support to ensure that all of our children have the best resources to overcome the traumas of their early lives," said Macduff. "After a particularly challenging 3rd grade year at school, we were ecstatic to see our daughter blossom in Dr. Collins’ 4th grade class. This was especially encouraging because, at the time, Dr. Collins was assigned to loop with the students, so we knew that our daughter would be with her for two consecutive years. The passion that Dr. Collins brings to each of her students individually is only rivaled by the detailed minutiae with which she addresses the teaching standards. She sets high expectations for all children, then connects with each one personally to ensure that they have the scaffolded support to achieve at their highest potential. The second year that my daughter was in Dr. Collins’ class, my adopted son (with genetically mosaic delays) was also in her class. While he continues to struggle academically, she was able to help us recognize so many of his strengths that we had overlooked in light of his physiological and mental challenges. To this day, I can see the strength and light in the eyes of my children because of the impact of having Dr. Collins as their teacher."
"From these beginnings, Dr. Collins and I began a friendship that blossomed while her district was poised to go on strike," said Macduff. "This strike was primarily premised on the lack of quality curriculum available to teachers. As an active leader in her union, Dr. Collins provided the leadership and perspective to support all teachers in their careers, locally, regionally, and nationally. Watching her hold her head up through these trying times and tirelessly work to support her colleagues, while her own career was held in check, was truly amazing."
Dr. Collins had the opportunity to work with regional and national leaders to develop strategies to help bridge the divide between the teachers and the central office. She recognized the needs of the district and empathized with the frustration of the teachers. Her efforts were key in developing a long range plan that is still being used to support the needs of the teachers, community, and district, with an emphasis on ongoing training for math and science teaching. She coordinated with national leadership to leverage key resources to support the local teachers. She is still working today to ensure that the agreements they worked out are being implemented to the benefit of all parties. Additionally, she's supporting the mentorship of new staff to bring them up to speed on best practices, NGSS, and community engagement to support the learning for all students.
Dr. Collins' leadership has been, and continues to be, crucial to the direction of the district. Her voice and presence are valued and recognized at the highest levels of district leadership. She is a powerful force for good for the profession of teaching and continues to play the long game for solving problems with all stakeholders in mind. Teachers in Pasco are better off because of the leadership being exercised by Dr. Collins.
Currently, Dr. Collins is on the executive council for a non-profit she helped found, SILAS Education. The mission of SILAS is to create opportunities for lifelong learning in the community, career, and classroom. Its primary work is focused on developing projects that provide professional development opportunities for educators, as well as installing lasting works in the community to create an environment of learning. Despite her professional duties to her classroom and union, Dr. Collins has committed to a three year term to bring these projects to life.
SILAS is currently developing a 64-mile wide scale model of the solar system throughout the local parks system integrated with a classroom curriculum and community support through a local museum. Dr. Collins plays an integral role, not only in keeping SILAS’ communication and records straight, but in guiding the organization's perspective with current research for leadership and education. She is a positive source for team unification and continually reminds her colleagues to remember the disenfranchised and marginalized. SILAS is a better organization because of Dr. Collins. Her influence is making the community a better place for learning and celebrating STEM, instruction, leadership, the arts, and servanthood. She is a true servant-leader who lets her heart guide alongside her deep insights into learning and community activation, thus making a permanent impact on the quality of life of the entire region.
Dr. Collins is the epitome of what a life-changing educator should be. She recognizes her strengths, focuses on her students, works tirelessly for the profession, and takes action beyond the classroom for a lasting impact on the community. She pursued her doctorate so she could help the district serve incoming teachers, and she spends her own time and money to present at regional and national conferences to continue sharing her expertise with developing educators.
"Education is all about changing lives. Dr. Collins has embraced this mantra beyond her classroom and contracted obligations into a lifestyle that sets the standard to which we could all aspire," said Macduff. "My adopted daughter started life with very little hope of a future. Even when she came to live with us, she had many challenges to overcome. Because of Dr. Collins, she is on track to get her degree from Gonzaga, take the seeds that were sown by Dr. Collins, and plant them into the lives of others who are in need of being changed. Dr. Collins’ life-changing legacy will propagate through my daughter, my son, and all students she has touched, as well as the teachers she mentors, the programs she creates, and the lasting work she is doing through SILAS Education."