By Aila Boyd
Editor’s Note: This article marks the first-ever Educator of the Month. The honor was created though a partnership between The Herald and Botetourt County Public Schools. Each month, educators throughout the school division have the opportunity to nominate a fellow educator for this honor. An educator, as defined for the purposes of this honor, is anyone who works in the school division and positively impacts the lives of students. Winners are selected based on who receives the most nominations. In order to be nominated, educators have to exhibit at least one of the following: support, high expectations, accountability, consistency, positivity, or grit. The Educator of the Month articles will appear in The Herald on the third Wednesday of every month.
Jane Reynolds has been educating Work and Family Studies students and advising the Family, Career and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA) chapter at Lord Botetourt High School for the past 29 years. During that time, many things have changed. Technologies have evolved. Her colleagues and students have come and gone. But one thing has remained constant— her passion for teaching.
Originally from New Jersey, Reynolds ended up studying to become a teacher in Ohio by happenstance. After receiving a rejection letter from her top choice of college, Reynolds’ mother sent an application off to a college in Ohio on her behalf without informing her about it.
If her mother hadn’t applied to the college for her, Reynolds said that she would have probably ended up going into taxidermy because she’s good at sewing. But as it happened, she ended up deciding to go to the school in Ohio where she majored in family and consumer sciences.
After getting married, she moved to Virginia. Due to the difficulty she faced in finding a job, she decided to enroll in nursing school. To her surprise, she ended up landing a job teaching culinary arts after graduating from nursing school. “I had never used any of the equipment they had, so I was self-taught,” Reynolds said, adding that she views herself as being a jack of all trades.
Seven years later, she accepted a position as a diabetic nutrition educator at a hospital. She then found her way to Botetourt County, where she has been ever since.
When considering the subject that she teaches, Reynolds said that she’s glad she doesn’t have to teach a Standards of Learning (SOL) subject because she’s able to be more experimental in her teaching methods. Worksheets, she said, very rarely make appearances in her classroom. Instead, she relies heavily on hands-on activities. A lot of her students, she said, report that they end up working much harder in her class than they do in upper-level math, science, and English courses.
Additionally, Reynolds said that she enjoys instructing in Work and Family Studies because she gets to teach her students important life skills that they otherwise might not from their classes and daily lives.
As the result of her innovative teaching methods, she was asked to write the Family and Consumer Science curriculum for the state. The woman who is currently in charge of the curriculum for the subject matter had met Reynolds at various conferences and events and ended up extending the opportunity to her. She even has plans to be involved in a state-level curriculum writing session next month. “It keeps me current because we deal with business and industry, so they’re a part of the curriculum process as well,” Reynolds said.
Many awards and honors have come her way as the result of her dedication to her students, including being named a Master Teacher and a Master Adviser by FCCLA, and receiving the Spirit of Advising Award from FCCLA and a Community Builders Award from the Masonic Lodge. She noted that throughout her career, she has had 12 students become state FCCLA officers and two national FCCLA officers.
Through her position as adviser of Lord Botetourt’s FCCLA program, Reynolds said that she has been able to become very close to her students because of the fact that they have her as a teacher year after year. Especially poignant was when one of her former students became a Work and Family Studies teacher in her own right.
After an already lengthy and illustrious teaching career, Reynolds had a sort of epiphany several years back after finding herself frustrated and discouraged. Having noticed that things were falling through the cracks, she decided to “be the change” that she wanted to see. As a result, she ended up taking on a lot more responsibility at the school.
Now, she coordinates homecoming, blood drives, the Veterans Day program, the powderpuff game, Spirit Week, and the November food drive in conjunction with the National Honor Society. In addition to all that, she also does more programming during the spring semester.
Another initiative to show that she values the contributions of others are her “shout-out” cards, which are cards that she sends to students and teachers to recognize when they have “gone above and beyond.” She said, “All students need recognition to show that someone noticed the great thing that they’ve done.”
Looking ahead, Reynolds said that she still has a lot to offer students. Constantly changing her teaching methods, she said, “You can’t be stagnant and be a good teacher.”
When considering the thousands of students who she has taught throughout the years, Reynolds said most of them didn’t appreciate the wisdom that she imparted them with at the moment, but that many of them have ended up coming back to her years later and thanking her for what she said and did years earlier. “It’s gratifying to have them reach out later on,” she said.
After being notified that she had been selected for the Educator of the Month honor, Reynolds was visited by Superintendent of Schools Dr. Lisa Chen, who presented her with a certificate. Chen was accompanied by Bradley Nuckles, of Horace Mann, who provided Reynolds with a gift certificate to a restaurant.