Spotlight  – Q & A

Where did you grow up? I was born in Fullerton, CA while my Dad attended optometry school. At the age of 8 years old, we moved to a small town called Logandale, NV, near the Utah border.

What schools did you attend? I graduated from Moapa Valley High School; I was a part of the first graduating class of over 100 students.

Mr. Jensen, Cascade Middle School

What did you do after high school? Right after high school, I worked for 2 years to save money. I was an assistant cook at the senior center, worked construction and cleaned up in a machine shop.

After working for 2 years what did you do? I went to the airport, looked at the flight departure board and randomly picked Marseille, France as my destination. I left from McCarron Airport in Las Vegas headed for France.

What was your plan once you arrived in France? I didn’t have a plan.

Did you make this trip with someone? No, all by myself.

What is the first thing you did upon arriving in France? I arrived at Charles de Gaulle airport and missed my connecting flight. A German man noticed my confusion and helped me get a taxi to the train station, which got me on a train to Marseille.

What did you do upon arriving in Marseille? Marseille was big, loud, and a little overwhelming for me – I stayed for 2 days. I bought a bus ticket and when it stopped in a city I liked, I got off.

Did you work in France? No, I used my savings to experience the differences between small town life in France and my small town in Nevada.

How is France different from America? Definitely, the food is different. Transportation is different too. You could walk about anywhere you needed to go in the small towns I visited. When I got bored of a town, I jumped on a train and did the same thing in another town.

How long did this last? For 2 years.

What were some of the memorable experiences? My first Christmas away from home was in a small town called Aubagne. Aubagne is famous for nativity scenes – it was magical. During my time in Nice it snowed for the first time in 15 years – I was on the beach at the time.

One time, I was riding my bike in the middle of the country and didn’t even know where I was. I stopped, there was a wheat field on one side of me, a vineyard on the other side and the purple mountains (the Alps) in front of me and I realized – this is the song America the Beautiful. It was such an amazing moment I wrote a story and sent it to my local newspaper, who published it.

Did you learn to speak French? Yes, I taught French class in Clatskanie for a few years.

Upon arriving home, how much money did you have left? 44 cents.

Where did you go to college? When I got home, my parents had applied to college for me. In three days, I had to report to Brigham Young University (BYU). I was not excited about this at all.

What happened at BYU? After three semester’s my grades were poor, so I dropped out. I just did not try.

Did you work after attending college? I spent time doing all the jobs I ever wanted to do.

What sort of jobs did you do? I worked in a bookstore, delivered flowers, drove a limousine, worked at a summer camp in California. I was an extra in Hollywood movies. None of the jobs were careers I wanted. This lasted 2 years.

What next? I met a girl on a blind date and got married 12 months later. We have four kids now.

Did you go back to college? Yes, I restarted at Whatcom Community College then transferred to Western Washington University. From WWU I moved on to Willamette University and earned my Master’s in teaching.

During college did you work? Yes, I worked the gun counter at Joe’s Sporting Goods. I started teaching firearm/hunter safety and taught over one-thousand people in one year. It was during this time I realized teaching was my passion.

What did you learn from teaching hunter safety? I realized teaching kids in the 12-15-year-old age group was what I wanted to do.

Where was your first teaching job? In Winston, Oregon down by Roseburg.

When did you start teaching in the area? I taught for five years in Clatskanie, but wanted something closer to home (we live in Kelso) and ended up getting a job here at Cascade.

What are some traits of a great teacher? Know the subject really well and care enough to make sure nobody falls through the cracks. Everyone must learn the skills before moving on.

What is the best thing about being a teacher? Having a captive audience, if they are not laughing and having fun I am not doing my job. Learning grammar and sentence structure is not fun, so finding ways to make it fun helps students learn.

What is your outlook for the future? It’s positive. There are enough kids working very hard that society will be okay. There will always be kids who struggle, but many come from challenging family backgrounds who try so hard.

What advice would you have for new teachers? Keep it light, but data is your best friend. If you don’t have data telling you where the kids are it’s tough. Knowing what the kids did and did not learn is crucial to success.

What are some of the keys to being a good writer? Know your subject and don’t leave anything out.

What are the kids of today like? Kids of today are bombarded with society – they cannot escape it. It affects them negatively and positively, they need more time away from technology.

If you could talk to the entire community what would you say? I would tell the community to love your kids and spend as much time with them as you can. Cherish every moment possible with your kids.

What is the hardest part of teaching English? Grammar. This is the only place grammar matters. Kids ask why they can’t use the letter “u” to write the word “you”. Some kids don’t understand the importance of learning proper English.

Are good writing skills hard to come by? Absolutely. Being a good writer is tough, when I have student who is naturally gifted I want them to use it.

What else? I like things because they are unique. I love the sport of curling because it’s unique – curling is fascinating.