Jensen: Teaching ‘gets inside you’

by marlys good

When the lockers are cleared out and the last students pass through the doors of the Greybull Middle School to signal the closing of the 2012-13 school year, Kathy Friebel Jensen will clear out her desk, pack things away and bring down the curtain on a teaching career that has spanned 34-1/2 years, teaching sixth grade in Big Horn County School District No. 3.

“It’s time to focus on being just a mom,” Kathy said, adding that her oldest son Trevor is graduating from college and second son Logan will be a GHS senior. Her decision to retire was both “a joyous and tearful” one, she admitted. “But I know my parents, both deceased now, would be very proud that their workaholic daughter is putting her family first.”

Kathy grew up in Colorado and graduated from Niwot High School, in the Longmont-Boulder area. “From the time I was in sixth grade I knew I wanted to teach sixth graders, so I went to the University of Northern Colorado which was well-known as a teacher’s college.”

Kathy completed her degree work in three and a half years, graduated in December, and began her career by substitute teaching in her hometown area.

Looking for a full-time position, Kathy was willing to go anywhere, and “anywhere” turned out to be Greybull, where a resignation at mid-year left an opening for a fifth/sixth grade science teacher.

“I was excited to get the job and moved here in the end of January 1979, which to this day was one of the record-breaking coldest winters in Greybull’s history.”

There were a number of young single teachers on the staff, including Ken Jensen, who had been teaching and coaching in Greybull for several years. Recalled Kathy, “All the single teachers would socialize and gradually shy, witty, chauvinistic Ken became more than just a friend and we were married in 1982.”

Neither planned to live their lives in a small town, “but as fate would have it, that’s just what we did. We bought a house, had two amazing sons, settled into our careers and made Greybull our home.”

Kathy’s primary focus was always teaching science and social studies to “roughly 1,350 sixth graders. Each student had his/her own unique set of talents, skills and needs, not to mention personality. I worked hard to know my students, finding ways to reach each of them and to try to help them develop, grow and succeed academically and as a person. Being at their concerts, art shows, plays and sporting events gave me tremendous insight into their world and helped me better connect with students and appreciate each individual.”

Kathy said she knows her students will remember dissecting frogs, studying ancient Egypt and building edible cell models. “But I hope what they remember the most about me is how much I cared about each of them and how passionate I was about their education. I thank each of them for the impact they made on my life and for the ways they helped me grow.”

Kathy summed her feelings about teaching by using a quote (with a few slight changes) from “League of Their Own:”

“Teaching is what gets inside you. It’s what lights you up, you can’t deny that. Some days it gets so hard. But, it’s supposed to be hard! If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it. The hard … is what makes it great.”