Turlock resident Jeanne Hartman, a resource specialist teacher at Empire Elementary K-8 School in Empire, was recently named the California League of Middle Schools’ “Middle School Educator of the Year.”
For the past two years Hartman has worked to help students who have fallen behind to catch up. As a resource specialist she gives personal and small-group instruction to kindergarten to eighth grade students who are two or more years behind in reading, math or language.
“My goal is to help the kids to the point where they no longer need my help,” said Hartman.
Kathryn Machado, a vice principal at Empire, said Hartman often works 11-hour days and she stays after school to help students with their homework.
“She does things you can’t measure; she helps the kids and their parents focus on improvements. She’s a huge academic cheerleader and she gives families hope,” said Machado.
Empire has a large percentage of students who are at-risk and who come from rough homes. But Hartman doesn’t believe a student can’t learn and relishes the moments when they realize that.
“The best part of being a teacher is when I discover the way to get an idea across. These kids who come to me have already heard how to learn something but it is my job to find another way to reach them,” she explained.
For Hartman, learning and education have always called to her. When she was five years old, she would race out to the road in front of her family’s farmhouse as soon as she heard the yellow school bus coming by. She wanted to wave at the students going to school.
“I was an only child and I saw all those children and I thought, I want to be where they are,” she said.
She was so persistent and dedicated to her waving ritual that eventually the school bus driver pulled the huge vehicle into her driveway, got out of the bus and walked to the front door, only to tell her mother, “Lady, this little girl needs to go to school.”
Hartman’s parents had been waiting until she turned six, but they decided to comply with the bus driver’s advice and she started kindergarten well into the middle of the school year. Because of the delay, she didn’t know a lot of the things her classmates did, like how to say the Pledge of Allegiance. But her teacher told her, “That’s okay, I’ll teach and you’ll learn.”
“I got the feeling it was okay not to know,” Hartman recollected. “I’ll be taught, and the next day I’ll do a little more…here we go.”
Her level of acceptance for a student’s academic ability, coupled with expectations for where a student can be has driven Hartman’s teaching for nearly 25 years.
“We strive for perfection and we settle for progress,” she said. “We are thrilled with progress because if you can break learning into chunks, students can be successful. We build on successes, not failures.”
Despite being named the best middle school teacher in the state, she is quick to share her accolades with her fellow teachers and administrators at Empire.
“I am truly honored, it was an honor to be nominated and to represent my school,” she said. “But I am really proud of every faculty member. They all work as hard as I do or harder.”
Hartman realizes that a community can be built around a school and education.
“Our K-8 harkens back to the good old days; there is peer tutoring with older students helping younger ones. They are all in it together whether they’re five or 13. It is truly a neighborhood school. We’re building that community.”
Hartman was nominated by Machado and Empire principal Chris Schoeneman.
“We sat in the office and he asked who should we nominate, then at the same time we said ‘Jeanne Hartman,’” said Machado.
To contact Jonathan McCorkell, e-mail jmccorkell@turlockjournal, or call 634-9141 ext. 2015.