This year marks Jennifer Sellenriek’s 28th year at Clayton. 2022 happens to be her year of retirement and final year of teaching English. Not only has she made a major impact on the students in the Clayton School District, but also the face of the Clayton literacy curriculum.
Sellenriek’s first teaching job was in 1993 and then moved to teach at Clayton in January of 1995. She hasn’t left Clayton since. She first started teaching Learning Center and American Literature at the high school, and then the next year she moved to Wydown and taught Literacy there for 10 years. Currently she teaches College Prep English I (9th grade English) and is the curriculum coordinator for the district.
“The curriculum coordinator oversees the curriculum in literacy in high school and reading and writing k-12 so mostly I’m just helping teachers figure out what to teach and how to teach it,” said Sellenriek on roles of being Curriculum coordinator.
Even though she is retiring after the end of this year, her hopes for the future of the Clayton literacy program are big.
“What I really wish is that we could have a more flexible curriculum in the sense that like we would have some standard books that we all teach but then maybe we would be like, ‘Oh wow this book is really important right now, lets teach it for the next couple of years and then find something new.’ This year we were actually looking for some new books that we could teach and I had a great time teaching a book that I had never taught and I think my class really liked it. I’m not sure if it’s a book that we would teach forever, but it’s something new. And I really like teaching book clubs, like right now my class is reading 4 books which is really great because they can pick what they want to read but they also can study it with a group,” said Sellenriek.
Throughout her 28 years of teaching at the district, pinpointing one favorite memory of hers is hard, but one of her favorites happened at the first poetry slam at Wydown.
“[My] All time favorite memory was at Wydown many many years ago, when we had our first poetry slam. And we had no idea how it was gonna show up and how it was going to turn out. And on that day it was standing room only in the cafeteria, kids and parents came at 7 o’clock at night and it lasted a really really long time and there were so many kids that came to read their poems. But I just have really vivid memories of some very specific students standing up and reading poetry that they had written in my class for this huge crowd and that was pretty amazing,” said Sellenriek.
Even though this memory stands out, in her eyes it’s rare to come to teach at Clayton without walking away with a new good memory from that day.
“This is a place that pushes you to be the best teacher you can be,” says Sellenriek.
When asked about her biggest takeaway as a teacher, her response was nothing but heartwarming and hopeful. “My biggest takeaway is that the kids are alright. It gives me a lot of hope, particularly right now, since we are coming off/still in the midst of a global pandemic and these students I’m working with are worried about big important ideas and how to solve them, and I think that’s pretty cool. Adults who don’t work with teenagers don’t get that about teenagers so I’ve been really lucky to always have that in my life. You guys [the students] expect a lot in a really great way, you want to learn a lot, you want to do well so that keeps us on our toes as teachers, in a pretty rewarding way,” said Sellenriek.
It is clear that Jennifer Sellenriek had a huge impact on the Clayton community and all of the things that she did for the literacy program will never be forgotten.