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Jenkins retiring after 43 years of teaching

When the final bell rings on May 25 marking the end of yet another school year, Marlene Jenkins will be leaving behind not just a job, but also a place that has become like home over the last 20 years.

Jenkins, a second grade teacher at South Park Elementary School, will be retiring following a 43 years career as a teacher including 20 years with the Vicksburg Warren School District.

“I consider this my home now. We moved here, my children came to school here with me, one was in fourth grade and one was in fifth grade,” she said. “People knew we were new to the community and knew we were new to the school and they accepted and helped us a lot. We always think of South Park as our little hometown.”

Jenkins spent time teaching in Louisiana and Philadelphia, before joining the staff at South Park.

She started at South Park as a fourth grade teacher, but has been teaching second grade longer than she can remember.

For 43 years, she has dedicated herself to teaching and molding children, and when she leaves her classroom behind on her final day, she says it is them she will miss the most.

“I like being with the children and teaching them something they’ve never learned before,” Jenkins said. “Then, all of a sudden after a couple days you can see ‘oh, I’ve got what she’s saying.’ I like the excitement of seeing the kids working a problem or reading a passage that they couldn’t read the day before and they feel successful.”

During her tenure, she has seen countless changes including the influx of technology.

Each student now has his or her own Chromebook, which they use to take tests and do assignments.

“My challenge is technology,” she said. “When I started, it was paper and pencil and books. They still tease me because I have to rely on my co-workers sometimes. Show me how to do this. It takes me while to get the programs, but once I get them I am OK with them.”

It may have taken her some time to get used to it, but Jenkins said she is all for the advancements as long as they don’t leave behind the necessary skills of reading and writing.

“I think we need technology,” Jenkins said. “In the back of my mind, I guess because I’ve taught so long, I still feel that kids need to hold a book in their hand. They need to write on paper. They need to have that experience before we can say we just want you on the computer. I think we still need to teach all the basics.”

Even the way classes are taught has changed over the years. When she started, the entire class learned together and was given the same lesson.

Now, the students work in small groups and the curriculum is more geared towards the needs of each individual student.

“What we are teaching now is so much involved,” Jenkins said. “When I first started teaching, you would have discussions and the kids would answer questions. Now, some have project that they are working on. It is not just a quiet classroom where everybody is doing the same thing at the same time.”

She has adapted to every change that has come her way over the years by staying organized and making sure she gets to know the needs of every student and the challenges they face.

“The teacher has to be organized,” Jenkins said. “She has to know what skills are being taught. You have to know what are the needs of each individual child. It takes preparation, organization and management of the classroom to be able to get all of that going on at the same time and make sure that is a learning environment of the kids.”

Being organized, know your students and work with your fellow teachers. Those are Jenkins’ tips for the new crop of teaches that will be tasked with shaping the next generation.

“Make sure you listen to your children,” she said. “Know what they are trying to tell you. What their weaknesses might be. Try to get as much information about the children.

“Work with your partners on your grade level. Don’t try to do it all by yourself because you can’t. It just makes things easier. In working together, you make sure you are teaching the skills that are needed on your grade level.”

It wasn’t an easy decision, but Jenkins said it was time to retire because she felt that she couldn’t give the students 100 percent anymore.

“I know I will miss the kids,” she said. “I have had a hard time deciding this. It isn’t something that came easy. I just love being with the kids.”

She said she may not be gone for good though and may come back and tutor, but for now she plans to spend more time with her kids, catch up on her reading and prepare for a grandchild that is due later this year.