NOTUS, Idaho — In the town of Notus the school mascot is the Pirates. This week's Innovative Educator has proven herself to be a real pirate's treasure.
Principal Jen Wright has been at the helm of the Notus Elementary School pirate ship for the last six years.
"We try to bring joy and happiness because I want it to be a place where people want to come, whether it's my teachers or my students," Wright said.
She has piloted the ship through calmer waters and now the choppier seas of the coronavirus pandemic.
"I'm very fortunate with my staff that they have really supported one another," Wright said. "And there have been some times with a little bit of worry and some anxiousness, but I think we really have to stay strong because that's the picture we want for our students, too."
Even while swashbuckling with COVID-19 herself.
"Well, haha. It was like bronchitis times ten," Wright said. "So I was super sick for the first week."
Now back at school, and just like always, according to the person who nominated her for Innovative Educator, she's making sure the staff and the 183 students have what they need.
She helped deliver produce boxes to families this summer.
She even hops on the school bus to deliver breakfast and lunch to kids who are learning remotely under Notus's hybrid schedule.
She and three other staff members take turns.
"It just depends on the schedule, but I like to be on the bus every other week to try to help, support and also check in with families because those are the moms and dads and uncles or whoever is meeting us at the curb, just to make sure that they have everything that they need and then pass off their meal to them," Wright said.
Then there's the Socktober sock drive for women and children in a local shelter and the Christmas Giving Tree she started six years ago.
This year 11 anonymous Notus families in need will receive gifts of toys, board games, books and clothing. Treasures this time of year.
"So I know that they'll have a little bit of joy on Christmas morning, and it alleviates the stress," Wright said.
Wright applied for and received a grant to create an after school program called the Pirate Learning Center. It provides reading and STEM activities as well as food and a safe place for K-8 students.
"It's a game changer for some of these families," Wright said. "They're here all day. Yes. it's a very long day, but we know they're being cared for."
This year, a different grant helped start a preschool program.
"Oh, it's a joy to see them learning and becoming a group of curious, engaged learners," Wright said.
She has also taken students to get bikes from the Boise Bicycle Project and instituted the Girls on the Run program in Notus. She says it helps girls build self-esteem and confidence through lessons, conversations and running.
Wright may be the captain of the pirate ship, but says she couldn't sail it without her incredible crew.
"You know I think it's an honor that someone thought enough about turning this in, but it really should be my staff that receive this recognition," Wright said. "Yes. I am the principal, but it's a team. We're all in this together."
If you would like to nominate a teacher who is going above and beyond, send us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Educators, for more information on submitting an application for a classroom grant through the Idaho CapEd Foundation, visit www.capedfoundation.org.