DES MOINES, Iowa — For the first time since Fall of 2020, WHO 13 awarded a deserving Iowa teacher with the Golden Apple in person. COVID-19 kept us out of schools that entire time but it was the pandemic that allowed a Des Moines teacher to shine in ways that she never knew she could.
Students inside Jennifer Netherton’s first-grade class at Bergman Academy wear facemasks and work behind plexiglass desk barriers. It’s a different environment but a welcomed reunion after the early days of the pandemic changed that.
“We didn’t know if they were going to shut us down again. Were we going to have to all online? I was one of the few teachers here that had dual learning so I had ten kids in the classroom then I had one who was online the whole school year.”
Netherton has taught at Bergman for five years, having lost the most sleep over her students the past two.
“You’ve had a lot of, ‘am I doing enough?’ Is he getting what he deserves or is he getting what he would have had if he were sitting in the classroom with me?” she describes. The most recent school years have been the most challenging of her career but also the most rewarding. “I learned that I am capable of doing hard things.”
A former student’s grandfather, who watched his grandson learn online, nominated the teacher for the Golden Apple Award. He describes Netherton as someone who brought his grandson through social and academic isolation with engagement and encouraged him when he had given up.
“When children feel known and heard and valued and seen that they learn differently they engage differently and when we have teachers who are enthusiastic and who that’s part of their general makeup like Mrs. Netherton,” says Bergman Academy’s head of school, Christie Stover. “She is a relationship-oriented person that truly brings out the best in all of them and that’s why we take great pride in that and great pride in her as a member.”
The teacher says she not only cherishes the academic relationships but also the personal ones she makes. Her goal is to make sure that students feel valued and excited to be at school each day.
Watch the complete interview with Jennifer Netherton below: