BOISE, Idaho — 26-year-old Sarah Jensen is just about to start her third year of teaching in Idaho; she teaches middle school math.
"There are so many things I love about being a teacher," Jensen said. "I think I knew I wanted to be a teacher in high school, and in college, I never once doubted that decision. It makes me feel like I'm making a big difference because I'm making middle school kids who are in the weirdest phase of their lives, feel valued and important and cared for. I really like that part of my job."
Jensen has a new and exciting role this year. This proud math teacher is also Miss Idaho 2022. Jensen was just crowned in June and it was a dream come true for her. She will compete at Miss America in December.
"This was my fifth year competing in the Miss Idaho Organization, and here we are, on my final attempt, I walked away with the title," Jensen said. "I appreciate it so much. I get to go compete at Miss America, and it's incredible I'm excited."
Jensen was born and raised in Weiser, Idaho. She loves the small town feel there and the community has surrounded her with support.
"I actually just got to go back there, for the Weiser Fiddle Festival as Miss Idaho, and it was really an incredible homecoming experience," she said.
Jensen went to college at Washington State University and moved back home to Idaho to pursue teaching. Her first job was at Middleton Middle School. This year she will be taking on a new challenge at a brand new school.
"This year I will be transitioning to Gem Prep Meridian North," said Jensen. "I can't wait to start."
During her first year of teaching, COVID-19 hit. Something no one could have predicted. It has been an adventure ever since.
"We've been through it the last few years, teachers have been asked to do so many things. I've had to learn how to teach in a hybrid system, I've had to teach online, I had to teach in person with masks, and later without," Jensen told KTVB. "It really taught me how to be flexible and adaptable."
Something else that has taken a toll on Jensen and her colleagues, the recent school shootings. The shooting in Uvalde, Texas that ended with 19 children and two teachers dead, has been especially hard on her.
"I mean just with the shooting in Uvalde, it was heavy, it was really heavy. We had to have extra police presence, and it was just hard to enjoy the last few days of school knowing the kids in Uvalde would never get that opportunity," Jensen said. "It really affects me, and I can't imagine what I would do in that situation."
Jensen says she and her fellow teachers are ready to protect their students at all costs.
"We all take it seriously, it's something that we don't expect, to be a protector of our students, but if it came down to it we are ready to go."
Jensen's platform, or social impact initiative for the Miss America competition, is WHY MATH MATTERS. Her goal is to get students to fall in love with math and to see how important it is in daily life.
"I realized if I could prove to kids that they could use math in their dream jobs, it would change their outlook on the subject altogether. So, I started interviewing people of all different professions about how they use math in their careers," Jensen said. "I started a YOUTUBE channel and a website. I love the idea that in a time when social media is so big and kids idolize YouTubers, TikTokers, and that, I get to be a role model who values service and education. I get to showcase that on a national stage. I'm just really honored to have this opportunity."
She knows she will be representing teachers when she competes at Miss America, and she is more than ready to do that after some really tough years.
"I would argue that many of us feel underappreciated and disrespected by our students, and by so many other people in the world and in the community. I think we needed a win, I feel like my win is a win for all of us," she told KTVB. "I'm honored to represent not just the state, but all of my colleagues and my friends as educators."
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