High School Teacher of the Year
Jenny Ochwo, English Learner
English Learner teacher Jenny Ochwo was named the 2018-2019 Teacher of the Year at Union High School
Ochwo started teaching at Union in 2012.
“I was elementary certified, but I knew I wanted to work with older students,” she said. “Union has a community that embraces students of every race, culture, religion, and background. I wanted to be a part of this and help students to succeed.”
That said, Ochwo never sought out to be a teacher when she was younger. But something changed her mind.
“I actually never wanted to be a teacher,” Ochwo admitted. “I wanted to be a missionary who traveled to other countries to help people. While I was in college, I traveled to the Dominican Republic and volunteered in an orphanage teaching English as a Second Language. I began to notice a trend—if people could speak English, they could get out of poverty and have better lives. This gave me a new purpose in life. I decided to become a teacher so I could help bilingual students get out of poverty by strengthening their English.”
“The biggest obstacle Ochwo faces in the classroom is helping students to overcome “the mindset that they aren’t smart enough, they aren’t good for school, or they’ll never graduate.”
She said, “I take the time necessary to build relationships, get to know students, and help them know they are loved and cared for. By knowing someone cares, my students have succeeded in great things. I have a student who came from Syria in ninth grade knowing no English. Today, she has graduated Tulsa Community College and is working as a surgical physician assistant. I have other students who are in medical school and studying to be nurses or doctors, and I knew them from the first day they could not speak a word of English.”
Ochwo’s mission is not done, however.
“The future will include Union reaching out to our non-English speaking parents in new ways and we will see even more students seeking higher education and utilizing their bilingual skills to succeed,” she predicted, and she wants to be a part of that future.
Ochwo has a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and teaching English as a second language from Oral Roberts University. She will have earned her master’s degree in school administration from Oklahoma State University this winter.