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Editorial

Outstanding Educators


Joan Fenster



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(click for larger version)
04/01/2007 - "We are a little family," Joan Fenster says, referring to Alcova School, where she is the only teacher serving grades kindergarten through sixth. Alcova is a small, rural school with nine students, caring/hard-working parents, and a dedicated staff consisting of paraprofessional Becky Martinez, office manager/secretary/librarian Vernita Marton, bus driver/custodian Paula Meyer, and our April Outstanding Educator, Joan Fenster.

"Rural is not like regular classroom," Mrs. Fenster explains. "Advantages include lots of one-on-one time with the teacher and students can progress at their own rate." A rural teacher faces the challenge of teaching multiple grades at the same time. Also, educational professional development workshops are not geared toward multigrade. "When a rural, multigrade teacher attends a seminar or workshop, we are challenged to take what we learn and apply it to a multigrade situation," Mrs. Fenster continues.

Another challenge common to all of today's educators is motivating students in the classroom setting because they are used to being entertained by the many and various forms of media available.

For Mrs. Fenster, the rewards far outweigh the challenges. She enjoys the "everyday growth I see in a child. It might be learning to read the first word or seeing the light come on when they learn a new concept." Her enthusiasm is evident in her voice.

"I love to teach writing," she shares. "Some of my students have become county-level authors in the Young Writer's Contest," she adds, obviously proud of them.

One parent comments, "Joan, having taught three of my four children, has proven to be not only an excellent teacher but also a caring and compassionate person, one you would not be afraid to trust your children with."

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Mrs. Fenster and paraprofessional Becky Martinez interacting with class. "I couldn't do it without her," Joan says. (click for larger version)
Mrs. Fenster started teaching in 1971 in Shoshone, Wyoming (3rd, 4th and 5th grades, successively) when she was 21 years old. "In many ways I was still a kid, myself," she reminisces. Her students were mostly farm/ranch kids. She found them enjoyable, noting that they were "respectful, responsible (used to chores, etc.) and easy to teach."

From there she moved to Jeffrey City, Wyoming, where she taught for 19 years. It was a uranium boom town when she arrived. Eventually, as uranium prices dropped, many residents moved away and Mrs. Fenster became a multigrade teacher for the first time (serving grades kindergarten through second).

In 1995 she moved with her husband to Casper and started teaching at Alcova School (primary grades). After teaching at Alcova for ten years, she was transferred to Bar Nunn School (teaching kindergarten) for two years, which she describes as a "warm experience". She enjoys the fact that she is back at Alcova School and can "walk across the bridge to work."

She has been listed in "Who's Who Among American Teachers" twice. In order to be so honored a teacher must be nominated by a top 10% college or high school student who has been taught by the recognized teacher.

Joan has been married for 19 years to ranch hand, Dick Fenster (from the Bummer Ranch). "He's a cowboy...loves to rope," Joan smiles. The Fensters have two grown daughters (one, a mental health counselor in Worland; the other, in marketing in Greenville, South Carolina) and three grandsons. There are also a few kids the Fensters "consider our own...some we have nurtured along the way," Joan shares.

Joan enjoys Casper, saying, "The people are very caring. They treat each other with respect and dignity. They are good neighbors, willing to help each other. They work hard and are proud of their town." She also enjoys the creative arts and finds the wide variety of opportunities available at the events center a great plus ("diverse arts, sports, etc.). Joan notes, with pleasure, that the Casper merchants are "very supportive of education."

She concludes, "I love teaching kids, interacting with them, seeing them progress." Our community appreciates you, Mrs. Fenster.

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