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Lifelong Learning

Robert Asp Teacher of the Year supports students and colleagues

February 14, 2019

Jennifer Dahl wants her students to feel respected and loved.

“I want my students to know that even when I see them at their worst, I know that their potential is still there, and I will never give up on them,” Dahl said.

Dahl, named this year’s Robert Asp Teacher of the Year, has been an emotional/behavioral disorders teacher for K-4 students at Robert Asp Elementary School since 2015. She also serves on the district staff development and Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports committee, and the Robert Asp building leadership team, school improvement committee and climate committee.

A teacher for 12 years, Dahl began teaching grade 5 at Tate Topa Tribal School in Fort Totten, N.D. She taught grade 8 special education at Cheney Middle School in West Fargo from 2008-2013 before transferring to West Fargo’s South Elementary to teach elementary special education. In 2015, she followed her passion for teaching elementary students with emotional/behavioral disorders to the position with Moorhead Area Public Schools.

As a young child, Dahl had a desire to be a teacher, but as a young adult she was encouraged to pursue other career choices.

“After exploring several career options, nothing seemed to come as natural to me as teaching did,” Dahl said. “Despite all of the influences, I decided to pursue my degree in elementary education. I truly believe that being an educator is my given path in life. It is my mission to ensure that all of my students feel respected and loved.”

Dahl graduated from Minnesota State University Moorhead with a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and a K-8 mathematics endorsement. In 2007 she received her special education endorsement from MSUM. Dahl earned her master’s degree in teaching and technology from Valley City State University in 2014 and a master’s degree in special education from MSUM in 2017.

After losing a former student to suicide, Dahl made the decision to teach elementary students with emotional/behavioral disorders and dedicate her effort to making sure her students feel loved and supported.

“I want my students to know there is a person who always believes that they have potential and can do anything,” Dahl said. “I encourage my colleagues and students to express kindness in unconventional ways. I want to provide a school environment that fosters learning and emotional well-being.”

According to Chris Triggs, principal at Robert Asp Elementary, Dahl is deserving of selection as Robert Asp Teacher of the Year, because of her love for the most challenging students.

“She brings such a positive energy to her classroom and works very hard to engage her learners and help them believe they can be good students,” Triggs said. “The positive attitude in her classroom is contagious, and students love her and respond very well too her.”

As she designs lessons, Dahl considers the students and their experiences, their academic level, their preferred learning style, and their Individual Education Plan (IEP) goals and objectives.

“When I think about my lessons and concepts that I am teaching, I want to make them interactive and engaging,” Dahl said. “I am able to do this through singing, acting, using body movements, and using humor.”

Dahl wants her students to love coming to school, so she creates activities that actively involve and inspire them. She engages her students in collaborative learning projects that focus on the 4Cs of communication, critical thinking, collaboration and creativity.

“In my classroom, my students learn respect and responsibility through independent learning, group projects, and problem solving,” Dahl said. “When students leave my classroom, my goal is that they take the skills they’ve learned and apply them in all settings. When my students are able to regulate their emotions and feel proud about themselves, they are able to be academically successful.”

Dahl wants not only her students to love school, but she also wants all students to love school. Each year she brainstorms ideas with her colleagues about how to allow learning to come to life.

“My students and I create activities that invite different grade levels into our classroom,” Dahl said. “Each school year my students and I host exploration days for all of the students receiving special education services. My students and I create interactive centers that allow students to explore different concepts.”

Triggs said Dahl is a great support to her special education colleagues, whether it is celebrating their birthdays by decorating their rooms or by wearing a costume on a special occasion at school.

“She also works with administration and completes the paraprofessional scheduling each year, making sure we use our support people to the best advantage for kids,” Triggs said.

Dahl is honored to be named Robert Asp Teacher of the Year.

“With the support of my colleagues, administrators, parents and students, I am able to be a positive role model and lead through kindness and perseverance,” she said.

Photo: Jen Dahl, learner support services teacher at Robert Asp Elementary and Robert Asp’s Teacher of the Year, listens to a student read and checks for comprehension.

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