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Franklin Community High School teacher named Indiana Teacher of the Year

Franklin Community High School teacher named Teacher of the Year

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Franklin Community High School teacher Eric Jenkins has been named the 2024 Indiana Teacher of the Year by the Indiana Department of Education. On Wednesday Jenkins joined Daybreak to discuss the accomplishment and help inspire future educators.

Jenkins teaches tenth-grade honors/general English/language arts, as well as Indiana University’s Advanced College Project (ACP) Composition Course W131, and grew up in southern Indiana.    

“Initially when I was named – like many teachers – I was like, ‘hey don’t put me in the spotlight,’ let’s talk about my students. But at this point, I think I’ve realized that it’s more about advocacy for public education. I’m somebody who’s benefited a lot. I’m a first-generation college student and public education has done a lot for me. So this is now my time to kind of pay it forward and really just speak about all the great things that are happening in Indiana when it comes to public education,” Jenkins said.

Jenkins was chosen from more than 65,000 teachers from across the state.

For over 60 years, the Indiana Teacher of the Year Program has worked to inspire, rejuvenate, and celebrate the teaching profession by recognizing outstanding teachers from across the state. The program encourages schools to nominate their local Teachers of the Year for this statewide honor.

Finalists are selected from these applicants by a committee made up of former Teachers of the Year, IDOE staff, educational organization leaders, business and community leaders, and representatives from higher education.

Jenkins is passionate about his work and says he is able to reach students by listening to them.

“All you have to do is listen. I think that’s the thing that we not only need to do for students but teachers as well. I know last week was Teacher Appreciation Week. Thank a teacher by all means, thank 10. But I think we need to listen to teachers too. And that’s, that’s really what it’s about is my role this year is to listen to teachers and uplift their voices,” Jenkins said.  

When asked what teachers want the public to know, Jenkins said, “I think the number one thing that teachers are saying and I’m going to quote the national teacher of the year, Missy Testament, who’s from Tennessee. Teachers need something taken off their plate. We do a lot, we wear a lot of hats and I think that’s the overall message. This year, I would even say most years, is take something off her plate.”

Jenkins recently represented Indiana in Washington, D.C. as Indiana’s Teacher of the Year.

“That trip is part of the National Network of State Teachers of the Year. It’s part of the 50 states teachers and then five territories that meet there, which anytime you get a room full of teachers, it’s going to be a good time. In this case, it happened to be at the White House for the first-ever state dinner. And so as part of that trip, it was just about celebrating teachers and talking about and uplifting the profession.”

Jenkins began his career at the American Christian Academy in Ibadan, Nigeria, in 2007 and moved back to the U.S. In 2008 to teach in Trussville, Alabama.

An Indiana native, Jenkins returned to central Indiana after receiving his Master of Science in literacy from the State University of New York in 2013 to teach at Franklin Community High School. Jenkins also has a master’s certificate in high-ability education and pursued additional training to strengthen his classroom instruction.

When asked to share advice to new or future educators, he said: “Teach fearlessly. And the first kind of tenant of ‘teach fearlessly’ is that you need to not be afraid to take care of yourself. We need to be well before we can take care of our students. I think beyond that, I think the other piece of advice is, don’t be afraid to reach out to the community for support when things are getting hard. Even if there’s not something local, there are teachers all around the state who want to help and who you can lean on for that support.”

(WISH-TV photo of Hanna Mordoh and Eric Jenkins)