Kindergarten is the first formal schooling that many young children experience. Jennah Truitt remembers that when welcoming kids to their first-ever day of school.
“I really try to make learning fun,” Truitt said. “This is their first experience in school, and I take to heart that this is the first impression they have, so I try to make the whole day fun.”
By working hard to ensure a happy classroom, Truitt earned Teacher of the Year for 2018-2019 at Lord Baltimore Elementary School.
“The children have to know you care about them. So I spend the first few days in September building that rapport. … This is your safe place,” Truitt said. “Before a child can learn, you have to take care of their emotional needs. … The community and people support that we have around here is amazing, and I think that plays a huge part in a child’s success.”
Truitt is dual-certified and teaches an inclusion classroom, which means children with special needs or individualized education plans (IEPs) are included in the traditional classroom. She was also LB’s Special Education Ambassador this year.
“She has a very diverse group of children, on many different skill levels and emotional levels,” according to a colleague’s nomination letter. “Faced with these challenges, Mrs. Truitt embraces the difference in her students and recognizes that not all children learn the same way and therefore cannot be taught the same way.”
The work is hard, but the rewards are lovely, she said.
“Each child is unique, for sure, and I love meeting their individual needs,” Truitt said. “They come here and they seem so little, but when they leave here, they’ve grown so much,” educationally and emotionally.
“There is not a single day they don’t make me smile,” said Truitt, the recipient of little hugs, drawings and love. “I soak it all up,” she said. “I’m very blessed to come to work and do what I absolutely love every single day.”
This is her first Teacher of the Year award. Truitt was nominated by a stack of families, some nominations written by parents and some written in the wobbly, but unquestionably devoted hands of the children themselves.
“In addition to being kind and caring, she has high expectations for her students,” one parent wrote. “Our family appreciates that she holds students accountable for their actions, good or bad.”
“Miss Truitt cares about us. We do fun activities,” a child wrote.
To see such love from the children she’s helped to grow, “It brings me to tears … to be able to share my passion of learning and to be able to make a difference in a child’s life — that’s the ultimate goal.”
That happy atmosphere is the result of hard work. Her colleagues wrote of her “herculean efforts” to partner with parents to overcome children’s learning difficulties.
“She cares very deeply about being an educator and strives to give her very best to her student every day,” one colleague wrote. “Ms. Truitt leads by example. She expects 100 percent from her students, and they know she gives no less in return.”
“Teaching is not an easy profession in many different ways, but you just take ’em as they come,” Truitt said, emphasizing the importance of mentors and coworker support. Learning and working in the IRSD her whole life, Truitt said she feels fortunate to have been inspired by many.
“I am humbled and honored to represent this school. I work with a lot of great people,” Truitt said. “It takes a village to teach a child, and we have the best village.”
An alumna of Indian River High School, she is also working on a doctorate. Truitt earned her bachelor’s degree in early childhood and elementary education from Salisbury University and her master’s in curriculum and instruction at the American College of Education.
Before these three years at L.B., she taught four years at Long Neck Elementary School. She currently serves on the Positive Behavior Support Committee and helps mentor up-and-coming teachers.
She seems destined for teaching. After a childhood of playing school at home, a teenage Truitt taught dance classes at Millsboro’s Dance Alley. That studio is like a second family for Truitt, who started dancing there as a 3-year-old, and still teaches and coaches the dance troupe.
When not teaching, Truitt is a proud aunt who fills her time with the beach, friends and family.
By Laura Walter