In her 29th year of teaching, Caren Jenerette said she was shocked to be named Midland Elementary’s 2020-2021 Teacher of the Year.
“I turned and there they were standing there with a plant in their hands, saying ‘Congratulations!’” Jenerette said of how Principal Jennifer Parker and Assistant Principal Jedd Hess gave her the news. “I was extremely shocked.”
Jenerette is a reading interventionist, who works with both individual students and small groups, using a variety of programs and digital platforms to help improve children’s reading skills according to their grade level.
“I taught up to seven at a time. I try not to have any more than that,” Jenerette said.
She attended Francis Marion College (now University) and received her degree in early childhood education, then began her career at Mullins Early Childhood Center where she taught for 12 years.
In her line of work, she gets to be front and center when reading “clicks” with a student.
“[I love] their love for learning and their excitement. Just seeing them get excited over the fact that they can read or that they are excited about the process of being able to figure something out,” Jenerette said. “I get to see that a lot more in the small groups…they need that extra confidence and time, and the extra ‘Yes you are smart, you can do this, I believe in you,’” Jenerette said.
Parker said Jenerette has a kind heart.
“Students are drawn to her and you can tell that she finds joy in helping others succeed. She is a passionate educator and is a true blessing to our school and community,” Parker said.
While this school year has been one for the books in terms of the COVID-19 pandemic, she said it has been especially hard for her having to keep her distance from students and others.
“I’m a hugger,” she said. “I’m a ‘let me show you’ kind of teacher.”
Jenerette lost her husband in recent years. Her son Zach is 24, and her younger son Caleb is 22. Both are in Columbia, having gone through college at the University of South Carolina.
Being a reading interventionist, she joked that one of her hobbies is of course, reading.
“I don’t get to do it as much, like during the summer I do,” she said.
Jenerette said she’s not very active on social media, but one of her favorite things to do is show support to her students by trying to attend their events.
“I like to go out and support the children whatever they do. I’ve been to a dirt track race, I’ve gone to plays before, singing, and concerts. It really means a lot to them,” she said. “And it means a lot to me because they know I love them. I love to see them at ball games.”
She joked that most students who know her can probably hear her at the ball games before they saw her.
“I’m known for my cheering, and it’s not quiet,” she laughed.
She remembers her preacher father saying that someone could always find a better preacher than he was, but they couldn’t find anyone who loved them more.
“I’ve taken that motto for myself,” she said. “Someone could maybe teach them better than I could, but they won’t love them more than I do!”