Abilene ISD Communications

The first thing that stands out in Jennifer Jordan’s classroom at Abilene High School is the hundreds of smiling faces that take up an entire corner of the room. Photos and graduation announcements given by students over her nearly 25 years on the only campus she’s ever known as a teacher fill one wall of her room and the sides of three cabinets.

They’re pictures of – as she affectionately calls them – her “babies.”

“This wall and these filing cabinets filled with pictures are my favorite part of my room,” Jordan said. “My first groups of students didn’t do graduation announcements, so they brought me their senior pictures, and I started taping them up. Then they started printing graduation announcements and bringing those, and they’ve taken over a wall, some filing cabinets, and my desk. But I love it. These are my kids; my babies.”

Perhaps one of the most beloved teachers on the AHS campus, Jordan began teaching at her alma mater on Jan. 7, 2000, and has never left.

“Abilene High is my home,” she said.“I bleed black and gold.”

The biggest reason the school feels like home is the students that have come in and out of her classroom, but never left her life. She sees them walk in (some as freshmen) and walk out as graduates, having watched them grow, mature, and get themselves ready for the world. It’s what fulfills her every year.

In her letter of recommendation to the Abilene Education Foundation, nominating Jordan for the Edwin and Agnes Jennings Teaching Excellence Award for Secondary Teacher of the Year, AHS principal Emme Siburt wrote, “This lifelong Eagle has not only been an educator of history in her time here, but she has also been an icon of Eagle spirit. Her smiling face and heartfelt greetings to students are genuine and they know it. She has been adopted as the bonus mom to hundreds of students who have walked these hallways. She is what every student wants in a teacher.”

Jordan’s career accomplishments, emphasized by the persuasive letter from Siburt, led to Jordan’s selection as the AISD Secondary Teacher of the Year at the Abilene Education Foundation’s annual Teachers in the Limelight Celebration (TLC). It was a moment that left Jordan stunned.

“It was the most humbling moment of my life, and I felt so completely honored because any of the teachers in the room with me that night could have won the award,” she said. “They are the most amazing educators and unsung heroes, and people who deserve everything out there for them to have. I couldn’t believe my name was called. I was sitting next to my friend Amber Via (Abilene High teacher), and she tapped me and said, ‘That’s you. Go!’ I was just dumbfounded. On the way up to the stage, I thought, ‘Don’t trip going up the stairs.’ I can’t begin to say how honored and humbled I was, and still am.”

It would surprise no one that mental pictures of the “babies” she’s taught probably flashed through her mind on that walk to the stage. Faces of students she’s loved on, supported, and – to a degree – mothered during their years in her classroom, whether she was teaching World Geography, U.S. History, Government, Economics, or Holocaust and Genocide Studies.

“It’s the biggest honor of my life to be a small part of their world,” she said. “I’m amazed when I’m out and about and hear, ‘Mrs. Jordan!,’ and I turn around and there’s a face I haven’t seen in a decade, and they want to come over and tell me what they’ve been doing since we last saw each other. It’s an even sweeter gesture when they say, ‘I don’t remember if you taught me U.S. History or what, but I know I loved your class and the family atmosphere you created.’ I don’t believe there’s a higher compliment a teacher can be given than that.”

Jordan was hired by then-principal Royce Curtis on Jan. 6, 2000, and started the next day on the first day of the spring semester. She still remembers the first two students to enter her classroom and their conversation.

“One of my favorite students of all time is Luis Romero, whose son, Coltin, is a senior this year,” Jordan said. “Luis was the very first student to walk into my classroom after I was hired. And then the second kid was Theo Salazar. They asked where their regular teacher was, and I explained he had left because of a family emergency and wasn’t returning, and I would be their teacher for the rest of the year.

“I love that story, and even though Luis and Theo are now in their 40s, they’re still my babies,” she said. “I was so young when I started teaching (22), and (my husband) Craig and I didn’t have any kids at the time. I had a lot of love and mothering to give out, so I deemed that first group my babies, and that’s stuck with every group since.”

Jordan said she’s never doubted that what she’s spent more than half her life doing is exactly what she was called to do, calling it her “mission” to teach high school students.

“This is exactly what I’m supposed to be doing, and this is where I’m supposed to be,” she said. “This is my mission; this is what I was born to do. I love being around these kids. They’re our future; they will run the world one day. And I love getting to be a small part of their lives. I love it when they share their hopes, goals, and dreams for their lives.”

As the end of the school year draws near, the eternally positive Jordan is preparing to send another group of seniors – her 25th group of babies – into the world for whatever awaits them. And as always, she knows it won’t be easy.

“The last day is awful,” she said as she blinked back tears. “I’m not OK that day. I’m tired like everyone else and ready for summer, but it’s already … it’s already hard. I love these kids, and I know the next step is that they leave, and I stay. But that doesn’t mean I have to love it.”

But she’ll tape a slew of photos and graduation announcements from the Class of 2024 to her wall over the next couple of weeks and then take a break during the summer to recharge. And in August, she’ll be ready to welcome new students to her classroom – another group of “babies” to teach, mother, and watch over.