New Diana High School instructor Jennifer Hudnall has been named the Region 7 Education Service Center’s “Secondary Teacher of the Year” for the 2015 year.
School districts and charter schools submit nominees for the regional award from the Kilgore-based center. Whitney Crews of EJ Moss Intermediate School in Lindale was named the center’s “Elementary Teacher of the Year.”
Hudnall and Crews will compete in the state Teacher of the Year award program, which is coordinated by the Texas Association of School Administrators. The state’s elementary teacher of the year, and the state’s secondary teacher of the year, will be named at a banquet in Austin in October.
Hudnall, a 2003 graduate of New Diana High School, who grew up in the community, is in her seventh year teaching at the school, where she is an instructor in biology and anatomy/physiology.
She is the daughter of Debbie and Jerry Cobb.
The teacher and her husband, Damon Hudnall, have a daughter, Bailey, 4, and a son, Jackson, 2.
In both a press release from the service center, and in an interview with The Mirror last Wednesday at the school, Hudnall discussed her educational philosophy, noting that. science is her passion.
Hudnall, who is known for her unusual teaching methods, said one factor in her entering the profession is that several of her relatives had been in it.
“I really wanted to make a difference,” she said. “I wanted kids to enjoy science again. When I got here, kids hated science.”
Through her college education - she holds a bachelor of education degree from Louisiana Tech University and a master of arts in teaching degree from Stephen F. Austin State University - she learned of different teaching techniques which she said she uses, but many others do not.
“I fully believe in getting to know your students and I push them and love on them,” Hudnall said. She notes that several of her former students have gone on to nursing school.
Region 7’s press release notes that “Hudnall provides lessons that are full of investigation, hands-on opportunities and thought-provoking questions by integrating various strategies such as highly engaging lab activities, student-created projects, and vocabulary games, as well as other unique techniques such as singing songs she creates and plays in which students act out science concepts.
“After being challenged by a student who told her she could make any song about biology, Hudnall took the song “Do You Want to Build a Snowman” from the movie Frozen and changed the lyrics to accompany the song’s new and more scientific title, Do You Want to Build a Protein.”
The news release then quoted the teacher as saying, “I absolutely love using unique ways to help my students enjoy learning about biology. I believe my most significant contribution in the classroom is my unique teaching style and personality. I want my students to know they are loved and respected and will receive a once-in-a-lifetime learning experience in my classroom.”
Hudnall told The Mirror she had been interested in science since childhood, when her grandmother, Carolyn Hankins, taught kindergarten at New Diana. Hankins was interested in science like space and geology, and would take young Jennifer on “dinosaur digs” (hidden bones) on a farm.
Hudnall said she went to Louisiana Tech for chemical engineering, but during her junior year, a professor discriminated against her because she was a female (the only one in that class.) When “he gave me a D,” she said, she prayed, “Great, God, you don’t want me to be a chemical engineer. What do you want me to do?”
In the news release, New Diana High School Principal Jenifer Politi cited Hudnall’s communication with students and families through weekly parent memos and social media, as well as the teacher’s community involvement and campus and district leadership.
This year, the release noted, Hudnall created the first-ever Eagle Nation Event in which students and faculty worked together to help disabled and elderly in the community by mowing yards, cleaning windows, painting and fixing broken items in homes.
Hudnall also is adviser for the high school’s National Honor Society and Student Council.
In the news release, Key is quoted as saying “Jennifer’s work ethic is beyond reproach, and she has a passion for the profession of education that exudes excitement to anyone in her presence.”
“I’m very honored, but at the same time humbled” to receive her honor, Hudnall said. Her grandparents, Larry and LarryHankins, live in Diana and her other grandmother, Frankie Cobb, resides in Oklahoma.