Middle School Language Arts Teacher at Yavneh Day School

Jenessa Schwartz’s authenticity made her a pied piper of Jewish teens. At Yavneh, Jenessa brought her full self to her work and in doing so, she engaged students’ hearts and minds as Jews and as human-beings, as they began to figure out their place in the world. The connection she created with these young teens will last long after they leave Yavneh.

Jenessa was exceptionally thoughtful, in both senses of the word. She had a deep knowledge of her students as people and went out of her way to show that she really saw them. As an English/Language Arts and Humanities teacher, she designed her curriculum to inspire her students not only to think, but also to wonder, care, and appreciate themselves, each other, and the world. Texts and assignments invited students to reflect on their own identities and articulate their closely-held values. Jenessa brought the deep sense of rootedness and support that she experienced from the Jewish community and extended it into the lives of her students.

As her former students Samara and Oliver Yellin share, “Ms. Schwartz helped me build a foundation of my identity as a Jew and a learner. She guided me into a new level of maturity, of values and connection to the world and community around me. In the four years since then, and in the many more years to come, I will have Ms. Schwartz in my life as my mentor and as the person I hope to be as kind and passionate as one day. Every day, I learn more about myself through the lens Ms. Schwartz helped me build.

This information was taken directly from the Award recipient’s nomination, and are the words of their colleagues.