Highland High School teacher Doug Jorgensen has a classroom disclosure statement that students have the ability to progress, to make changes, and to evolve into more enhanced individuals. He discusses the statement with each student. Seen through the eyes of the students, Jorgensen is more than a biology teacher. "All of the students affectionately call him 'Jorgy' or 'Mr. J' and describe him as 'non-judgmental and approachable,'" says Highland High PTA president Pamela Croft. "He has a calm and humorous manner that is engaging."
Jorgensen is one among six Utah teachers who have been selected to receive the 2010 Golden Apples Award for Excellence in Education presented by the Utah PTA and KUED. This May celebrates the 20th anniversary of the awards ceremony, which annually honors the exceptional efforts of Utah's top educators. The awards ceremony, along with live footage of the teachers in their classrooms, airs on KUED Thursday, May 27 at 7:00 p.m.
For Jorgensen's students, biology is more than just memorizing kingdoms, classes, phyla and species; it's an outlet for hands-on and alternative learning. Jorgensen, who teaches honors and A.P. biology as well as introduction to bio-technology, uses a variety of teaching methods and assignments. Looking for ways students can excel, his class lectures include PowerPoint presentations, an interactive website for home-based follow-up and occasional "biology walks" to nearby Sugarhouse Park
"He insists on hard work and initiative in order to earn an A," remarked one student, "but he knows how to make learning a fun experience."
Jorgensen is not strictly academic. Students flock to his classroom for lunch breaks or to identify a spider caught in a jar. Jorgensen often volunteers his time in an efffort to build a stronger sense ofcommunity. "You will see him on Friday evenings taking stats for the football team and the next week playing in the orchestra for the school musical, says Highland Principal Paul Schulte. "He even starred in the recent school play Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat."
When one of his students was diagnosed with Irlen Syndrome, a visual perception disability, Jorgensen immediately took action. Following special methods designed to correct Irlen Syndrome, Jorgensen printed the student's assignments, tests and quizzes on colored paper, which allows for easier legibility. He also organized a biology lab team that he felt would most benefit the student. Jorgensen's "no problem" approach was effective. The student has gone on to take many honors and advanced classes. Jorgensen had a profound and lasting effect on both his self-esteem and academic success.
Jorgensen's disclosure statement say, "I desire open communication with student, parent and administration. Please call with any questions or concerns. Email is a great invention - I like to use it." He stresses a parent's role throughout their child's education and not just in the primary years. "Many adults digress to backseat parenting, claiming that their child needs to learn how to 'make it on his own,'" says Jorgensen. "This lack of involvement can be detrimental to the students' education. Yet, there are many ways that an educator can help facilitate parental involvement for the student."
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