Washington Elementary teacher Jennifer Arblaster looks over a portfolio with student Olivia Barrett. Erica Yoon photo.
When it came to deciding a career path, the saying "Father knows best" rang true for Washington Elementary School teacher Jennifer Arblaster.
"I always knew I wanted to work with children, but wasn't quite sure what direction I was going to go," Arblaster said. "I remember my father always telling me that he thought I would make a wonderful teacher - I was drawn to kids and they were drawn to me. So I got into my first education class and just instantly knew that was my passion. I just couldn't get enough of it. I knew it was my calling."
Arblaster - Kingsport City Schools' 2007 teacher of the year for grades 5 to 8 - moved to Northeast Tennessee with her family in 1985. She attended Elizabethton schools and then received her bachelor's and master's degrees from Milligan College. She is pursing a doctorate in educational leadership from East Tennessee State University and recently received National Board Certification for professional teachers.
After graduating from Milligan with her bachelor's degree, Arblaster took her first teaching job at Washington. She has been at the school - and in the same learning center, though in a different age group - ever since.
Teaching, Arblaster said, is her true passion. But, it's more than just enthusiasm for the job that keeps her students interested.
As a life-long learner, Arblaster said she tries to incorporate as much research and real world experience into the classroom as possible. She said she also tries to tie subjects together to increase students' understanding.
"I use a lot of research-based practices in my classroom and really try to do what's best for the individual child," Arblaster said. "Brain-based learning is one (concept used in the classroom). I went to a conference about five years ago on brain-based learning. ... It was so enlightening to me to find out how the normal brain functions, how the brain learns. Then I was able to take that back into my classroom and apply those things to my students."
In addition, Arblaster said she tries to create a welcoming environment in the classroom, where students truly feel that they belong.
Part of being a teacher, she said, is to make the students the center of attention during the school day and to meet their needs in the best possible way.
"You have to be able to walk into the classroom and let those children be the center of your world for the day," Arblaster said. "Outside things - you have to close the door on those. Realize that they need you, desperately, throughout the day - to be the mom, to comfort them when they fall, to help them solve their little problems. Teaching has to be something you're passionate about. It's not an easy job, but it's one of the most rewarding.