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Southwest Orange Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021 1 month ago

Influencer of the Week: Jennifer Drone, Keene's Crossing Elementary

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Drone has been the media specialist at Keene's Crossing since it opened in 2009.
by: Danielle Hendrix Associate Editor

Ever since Keene’s Crossing Elementary opened in 2009, media specialist Jennifer Drone has taken on the role of helping students learn to fall in love with reading. Drone also handles all of the textbooks, curriculum, student devices and technology; teaches the student News Crew; sponsors student book clubs and the Battle of the Books competition team; and organizes all reading-incentive programs. Additionally, Drone was one of five finalists for the school district’s Support Person of the Year award in 2020. 

 

What brought you to your school?

I began teaching in Orange County Public Schools in 2000. Over the course of those years, I taught both first and second grades and had the privilege of being on the opening staff of two other elementary schools. Opening a new school is very exciting, so when Keene’s Crossing Elementary opened in 2009, I was given a chance to not only open another school but (also) to be the first media specialist for the school. This meant I got to choose all the new books and materials, plan the layout of the furniture and decorate the media center to make it inviting to our incoming students. Our media center has become the heart of our school. 

What do you love most about your school?

What I love most about Keene’s Crossing are the people.  From the very youngest of students — wide-eyed during our weekly story times — to the older students connecting with characters in favorite books, I get to see happiness in their faces every day. I also love the staff I work with. We are one big family. ... And I can’t forget the families that make up Keene’s Crossing. I can see the love they have for their children and the support they lend to our school through their participation in school activities and hours of volunteering.   

What is your motivation?

My motivation is my desire to grow every student into a lifelong reader. When a kindergarten student says, “But I don’t know how to read,” and I am able to show him a wordless picture book and allow him to tell the story, he is a reader. When a second-grade student says, “When will I learn to read?” and I can give her a book with words she does know, she builds confidence as a reader. When a fourth-grade student says, “But I don’t like to read,” and I connect him with the latest series of high-adventure books, he begins to enjoy reading. 

What is the most rewarding part of your job?

The most rewarding part of my job is seeing the “lightbulb” moments when a student reads a book independently for the first time, is able to decode a difficult word, completes a reading challenge and falls in love with a book. 

What do you like to do in your spare time?

I enjoy spending time with my husband and my two sons. Both of our boys are wrestlers on the Windermere High School team, so I love going to their meets and cheering them on. They are also Boy Scouts, so we enjoy lots of outdoor activities like bicycling, hiking and camping.

Who was your favorite teacher when you were in school? Why?

One of my favorite teachers was Mrs. Spencer, back in third grade. She made learning and reading fun. One of my best memories is her reading aloud “The Velveteen Rabbit.” This was the first novel I fell in love with. 

When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up? Why?

From a very early age, I knew I wanted to be a teacher. I would line up my dolls and my older brother and play teacher. We would play school for hours. As I got older, I knew I wanted to be a teacher because I wanted to have a positive impact on children. I saw the need for students to not only have someone to help them learn academic skills, but also to show them love and compassion. 

What is your favorite children’s book and why?

One of my favorite children’s books is “Guess How Much I Love You.” I read this book to my own children, who are now 17 and 14, almost every night when they were babies until they started reading on their own. Now I buy this book for every new mommy I know. 

If you could have any super power, what would it be and why?

If I could have any super power, I would have the power of positive thinking. I would impart positive thoughts into everyone in every situation. I know that the one of the biggest obstacles is ourselves. When we have negative thoughts, we defeat ourselves before we even try. Having a positive outlook makes everything brighter. One catchphrase I use daily with my students is, "stay positive."   

If you could only listen to three bands or artists for the rest of your life, what would they be and why?

If I could only listen to three bands or artists for the rest of my life, I would choose Casting Crowns, For King and Country, and Lecrae, because their music is filled with positivity.  It is music that uplifts and makes me feel good when I listen to it.   

Danielle Hendrix is the Associate Editor for the West Orange Times & Observer and the Windermere Observer. She is a 2015 graduate of the University of Central Florida, from which she earned a bachelor's degree in journalism with a minor in world comparative studies. ...

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