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Voyageur's Best Features of 2003

Jen Panovich and Daniel Ultimo

Calming disposition
Jen Painovich receives ‘Most Exceptional Teacher’ award
by John Grones  |  May 13, 2003

The surprise came on Tues., May 6 when Jen Painovich found out that she was selected the ‘Most Exceptional Teacher’ in the area by WalMart. Cloquet Wal-Mart assistant manager, Cheryl Adams and personel manager, Donna Swanson, both arrived at Cromwell School around 10:00 with the prizes, a plaque, $1,000, a Wal-Mart vest, and treats for her kindergarten class.

Her response, “Pure shock,” said Jen.

According to Donna Swanson, Jen was selected based on letters they had received from the parents of the children in her classes. Donna recognized the fact that Jen is very willing to go above and beyond. Jen is very patient and involves her students in extra hands-on activities.

Cromwell principal, JoAnn Bloemendall-Gruett, felt that Jen was very deserving of the award. “What I notice the most about Jen, is her calming affect on kids,” she said. “She keeps that tone. Parents find her very approachable.”

JoAnn also added that Jen is very good at focusing on the learning needs of students She is very effective at guiding students into increasing their skills. “If a student is having trouble, Jen identifies the need and provides assistance.”

The students in Jen’s class recognize her efforts and two boys, Daniel Ultimo and Tristen Smith, had this to say about their teacher: “She teaches us to learn how to read...” said Daniel.

“... and she teaches how to listen...” added Tristen.

“... to sit down and be calm...”

“... and be quiet,” concluded Tristen.

Shannon Genereau said this about her teacher. “She loves us a lot, and she sends mail home, so our mom and dad know what we are doing.” School is winding down and Shannon pointed out the number count-down on the board.

There are 12 days left of kindergarten and, after those 12 days, Jen will have completed her fourth year at Cromwell School. Her first teaching experiences were with long-term subbing in Duluth. Jen graduated from St. Scholastica and graduated from high school in Virginia, Minn. before that.

In addition to teaching kindergarten and first grade at Cromwell for the past four years, Jen has also been an assistant coach for the girls varsity basketball team and an assistant track coach. Jen’s calm disposition is also very evident when she coaches.

So where does this calming trait stem from? “My dad,” said Jen. “He is very calming and he’s always been that way. People say that I am so much like him.”

According to Jen, she always knew she would be teaching. She had a brief notion that the medical field might also be to her liking, but found out she didn’t have the stomach for it.

Jen has always taught the primary grades, and loves their excitement for learning. “They are so excited to be here,” she said. “They are fun.”

Jen concluded by admitting that, like in any profession, there are those days...

“...but then one of the children will say something so sweet and honest and it will bring me back to why I’m here.”

This article first appeared in the May 13, 2003 issue of the Voyageur Press.