From college classrooms to their own, alumni stick together
Jenalyn Hennon has a security blanket woven with scarlet and gray threads that reach all the way back to the Ohio State Lima campus.
Hennon is a first grade teacher at Wapakoneta Elementary. Three of her fellow teachers are more than just colleagues. They are fellow Buckeyes and a support group for each other.
Andrea Zickafoose, Dylan Shepherd and Olivia Guisinger went through the education program with Hennon. They all graduated with a BS in Early Childhood Education in 2014 and, with the exception of their first year of teaching, they have been together since beginning their first education classes at Ohio State Lima.
While Guisinger, Hennon and Shepherd came in as a group teaching first grade at Wapak, Zickafoose started at the Lima City Schools before also joining the Wapak team. She now teaches kindergarten. Guisinger and Hennon teach first grade and Shepherd teaches second.
“In an environment that is constantly changing – from year to year, day to day – having fellow Buckeyes to lean on makes it easier. The longtime bond and common educational background makes sharing easy and leads to a more positive classroom experience for students and teachers alike,” Hennon said. As students move through the grades, their teachers can compare notes and strategies as they watch their charges grow.
Hennon and Guisinger are partner teachers who share planning and prep for their separate classrooms. The added efficiency of sharing ideas and time has helped them both have time for a life outside the classroom and strengthened their relationship.
“Olivia and I were together in college. We all knew each other but your relationships also transform. We weren’t as close as we are now,” Hennon said. “Teaching together has really made a difference. We weren’t at each other’s houses all the time when we were in college. Now that we teach together, it is a normal thing for us to do, to spend time.”
Starting in the same school district at the same time has made some of the hurdles teachers face less daunting, whether it be in the classroom or paperwork.
“Teachers have to go through a resident educator program in your first three years. It is a lot of paperwork on top of being a teacher,” Hennon said. “That is something that the four of us did together because we all graduated at the same time. It helped. We’re all stressed about the same things. We’re all facing the same sort of battles.”
Having familiar faces to lean on has made the transition from new teacher to classroom veteran easier.
“When we first came here, it was scary to go to somebody and ask them a question. You don’t want to ask someone who doesn’t really know you because you don’t want to look stupid or get in trouble, so you go to someone you’re familiar with, someone you feel like you can trust,” Zickafoose said.
The teachers have passed that support down the line to current Buckeyes as well. Three of the four have hosted student teachers in the last few years. Having the student teachers in the classroom for a full year highlights one of the biggest benefits Hennon sees to the Ohio State program. Student teachers can learn the rhythm of the classroom and begin to apply the principles they are learning in their college classrooms before they become full-fledged teachers.
Guisinger, Hennon, Shepherd and Zickafoose have not limited their advice to their own classrooms. They have all been back to the Ohio State Lima campus for alumni panels and other activities. Hennon was the keynote speaker for the Dean’s Convocation in 2017. She encouraged students then to make connections with each other and their professors.
“Make the experience what you want it to be. You have that opportunity. You can show up everyday and just go to class or you can be here and really immerse yourself in the university whether you’re here for a year or for all four. Try to make the connections.”
Photo above (from left) Olivia Guisinger, Andrea Zickafoose, Jenalyn Hennon and Dylan Shepherd.
Story by Pamela Joseph