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Cameron’s ‘Teacher of the Year’ Overwhelmed by Honor

Photo Provided Alijah Kuhn, left, and Kendra Dobbs present Jennifer Schwertfeger with a congratulations card signed by the entire student body.

CAMERON — After a tumultuous two years that included a couple of statewide strikes and the introduction of charter schools, Jennifer Schwertfeger said she’s proud of the role educators play in society after she was named West Virginia’s “Teacher of the Year” this week.

Schwertfeger, a science teacher at Cameron High School, was one of six finalists for the statewide honor before receiving the award Wednesday night during a ceremony in Charleston. She will now represent West Virginia at the National Teacher of the Year program in the spring.

She was welcomed back by students and staff during a celebratory assembly Friday morning at her school in southeastern Marshall County.

“It’s important for the public to truly understand what we do, and what our role is in society. And the importance of recruiting young people into our profession,” Schwertfeger said after the assembly. “I feel very positive that the powers that be work together to find solutions to the problems that face us. But it all starts in the classroom with the dedication and relationships we have with the students.”

Schwertfeger, who had been nominated as Marshall County’s Teacher of the Year twice before, said she lost her breath when she walked onto the banquet stage in Charleston to receive the statewide award.

“It was completely unexpected when you look at the resumes of the other finalists and award winners,” Schwertfeger said of the other finalists. “They were all just amazing in what they’ve done and accomplished.”

Other candidates for the award were Aaron Fedorke, a career technical education teacher at Wheeling Park High School; Alexandria Amorim, a mathematics and engineering teacher at Wayne High School in Wayne;

Kara Bowles, a special education teacher at Mountaineer Middle School in Clarksburg; Clara “T.C” Tucker-Clemons, a fourth-grade teacher at Highlawn Elementary School in Huntington; and Lucas Woods, a music teacher at PikeView High School in Princeton.

In addition to teaching, Schwertfeger will now spend the next year traveling the state meeting other teachers, retirees and staff during various speaking engagements. Schwertfeger also is a state finalist for the 2019 Presidential Award for Excellence in Math and Science Teaching, an award presented for excellence in the field of science education.

She hopes to use this opportunity to tout the work all teachers do in the classroom every day, especially after the past two years.

A two-week strike in early 2018 in which teachers from across the state packed the Capitol building in Charleston spurred state lawmakers to provide the educators with a 5 percent pay raise. A brief strike earlier this year was in protest of a plan to allow charter schools in the state, which was passed during a special session over the summer and will be implemented next year.

“It’s my hope to get my message out to about teachers. The job we do is very important,” Schwertfeger said.

Marshall County Schools spokesman Tony Wood said Schwertfeger’s passion for teaching is contagious within the district.

“We’re very proud of her,” Wood said. “All of our faculty and teachers come to work every day to get the next generation where they need to be.”

Schwertfeger is originally from Woodsdale and graduated from West Liberty University before attending West Virginia University for her master’s degree. She has taught for 11 years, the last 10 of which have been at Cameron High School.

Seniors Alijah Kuhn and Kendra Dobbs presented Schwertfeger with a congratulations card signed by the entire student body during the assembly.

“It was exciting, I felt humbled. I had a chance to thank the faculty and staff, and that was very important for me to do that,” Schwertfeger said of the assembly. “They gave me a nice welcome home.”

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