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2512 George Mason Drive • P.O. Box 6038 Virginia Beach, Virginia 23456-0038   757.263.1000 • 757.263.1240 TDD

Citywide Teacher of the Year

Jenna Free

2017 Citywide Teacher of the Year
Jenna Free

Jenna Free, an English teacher and Virginia Teachers for Tomorrow (VTfT) instructor at Tallwood High School, is the 2017 Virginia Beach City Public Schools (VBCPS) Citywide Teacher of the Year. Free was selected as the citywide winner from an initial pool of 87 Teachers of the Year and has been teaching for nine years, eight of which have been with VBCPS and at Tallwood.

Free began her undergraduate studies at Ohio University (OU) in the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism to support her aspirations of working in advertising. After a change of heart and considering other career options based on what she deemed to be her best qualities positivity, idealism, kindness and loyalty she met with staff in the university’s CARE (Creating Active and Reflective Educators) Program. “That was the moment I was certain I wanted to be an educator,” Free wrote in her Teacher of the Year application. She went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in Adolescent Young Adult Integrated Language Arts Education and a master’s degree in Cultural Studies, both from OU.

“When you visit Jenna’s classroom, you enter the most inviting place for students to learn and love the subject,” wrote Tallwood principal James Avila in his letter of recommendation. “She takes time to get to know each of them, thereby helping her understand individual learning needs. Because of these relationships, she understands what motivates them to learn.”

Free credits her undergraduate studies and continued travels abroad as further developing her instructional and interpersonal skills. “I chose to do my student teaching through the Consortium for Overseas Student Teaching (COST) and was placed in a bilingual school in Merida, Yucatan, Mexico. The lessons I learned not just living in another culture but teaching in another culture were invaluable. I understand aspects of language and communication that I likely could not have learned otherwise, and which now serve me well in building relationships with students, parents and colleagues,” wrote Free. She has also visited Nicaragua and India as well as chaperoned international trips through Tallwood’s Global Studies and World Languages Academy.

“Jenna is the model when it comes to having a positive approach in every endeavor,” wrote Heather Comer, Tallwood’s English department chairperson, in her letter of recommendation. “[She] has built the Virginia Teachers for Tomorrow program into a sustainable community of young educators who yearn to continue their studies as educators beyond the doors of Tallwood. She also has built Advanced Placement Literature and Composition into a vibrant community of enthusiastic learners who strive and succeed when presented with academic rigor.”

Brad Ward with students

In addition to her work as an English and VTfT teacher, Free devotes time to advise the school’s leadership workshop, Educators Rising program and Poetry Out Loud committee. She serves on multiple school committees and division curriculum committees, mentors new teachers and is a VBCPS Design Fellow.

“As a teacher, Jenna’s greatest strength is her razor-sharp focus and understanding of what it means to create a student-centered environment, one that fosters student ownership of learning and the development of positive relationships,” wrote Robin Hoffman, coordinator in the Office of Professional Growth and Innovation, in a letter of recommendation.

Positive relationships are the foundation of Free’s teaching philosophy.


Last Modified on Monday, April 30, 2018