Middle School Language Arts Teacher at Yavneh Day School

It is Jenessa Schwartz’s authenticity that makes her a pied piper of Jewish teens. At Yavneh, Jenessa brings her full self to her work and in so doing engages students’ hearts and minds as Jews and as human-beings, as they are beginning to figure out their place in the world. The connection she creates with these young teens lasts long after they leave, as many students will return to seek advice as they navigate high school and college.

Jenessa is exceptionally thoughtful, in both senses of the word. She has a deep knowledge of her students as people and goes out of her way to show that she really sees them. As an English/Language Arts and Humanities teacher, she designs 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 invite students to reflect on their own identities and articulate their closely-held values. Jenessa brings the deep sense of rootedness and support that she experiences from the Jewish community and extends 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 both physically and emotionally 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.