Achievement Profile: Jerry Esfeld
Finding Something Special in Every Student
Ms. Jerry Esfeld started teaching fourth grade at Jefferson
Elementary School, in Great Bend, Kansas, 37 years ago. She
is retired, but continues to teach the same grade at the same
school, part-time, in the mornings. The interviewer must admit
there is significant bias in stating that Mrs. Esfeld is the
best teacher in the world--35 years ago, she was his fourth
grade teacher at Jefferson. Some of the things the interviewer
remembers about that year, 1967, include Mrs. Esfeld letting
him give up cursive writing forever, convincing him he was
great at math and inspiring him to develop almost too much
self-confidence--which has never worn off. Meeting Mrs. Esfeld again after
so many years was a real treat.
Some Jerry Esfeld links:
Kansas Foundation for Agriculture in the Classroom
(Great Bend, Kansas)
Jefferson Elementary School
USD #428 Info Page
Communication Arts Standards for the State of Kansas (Draft, Nov. 14-15, 2002)
An ESL MiniConference Online interview
with Jerry Esfeld:
What is your main teaching activity now? What are your
principal projects, and what is on the back burner?
My main activity is now and always will be to continue
to enjoy life and have fun in the classroom and wherever
my daily activities take me. My principal project is to make
learning fun and develop strategies that will meet the needs
of each student. I hope to have 100 percent of my students pass
all of the science, math and grammar objectives!--set out by USD #428--then
How did you start your teaching career? Who influenced
your decision? What were some important formative
experiences in the early stages of your development?
My mother was a teacher in Ellis County during the
"Dirty Thirties." I was the first family member to get
to go to college and it was never a question as to what I
When I started teaching, my principal at that time and I had a huge
personality conflict. This conflict continued during my entire
time of teaching with him as my administrator. I do believe
this made me a stronger teacher. Being a finalist for Kansas
Teacher of the Year, nominated for the Disney Teacher of the
Year, being named Outstanding Young Educator and being named
Professional Woman of the Year helped me maintain my confidence
during those "trying years" with this principal.
I've been blessed to be able to be at Jefferson during my
entire teaching career. This does not mean that I haven't
dealt with children with special needs. I begin each year
by telling the students that we all have handicaps and needs,
and asking their help in accepting them and helping us overcome
them. I always point out my handicap with spelling!
If you had to give advice to a
new teacher, what would it be?
I wish I could talk to every new teacher. I would tell them to start
a file with a letter from each student written at the end of the year
to the teacher, with a school picture attached, and don't forget to
put the date on it. I treasure my file--but I don't have last names
on some and no dates on others.
What do you see as the most important issues
facing the teaching profession today?
The most important issue facing the teaching profession is public
opinion. Robb, with your writing abilities, perhaps you could work
Interviewed by Robb Scott
2002 ESL MiniConference Online