WILKES-BARRE — Jennifer Yuhas may be up for a national education award but the Heights-Murray Elementary first-grade teacher refuses to take any credit.
“I don’t feel I do anything different than the other teachers on our team,” she insists when asked about her nomination for the LifeChanger of the Year Award.
Principal Hal Gabriel, who nominated Yuhas, is less deferential. “She goes above and beyond,” Gabriel said. “She is incredibly dedicated.”
The award is sponsored by the National Life Group Foundation, formed in 2006 to “do good in the communities in which we live and work by supporting nonprofit and educational organizations,” according to national Life Group’s website. The annual award is given to teachers “who are making a difference in the lives of students by exemplifying excellence, positive influence and leadership.”
When she’s with her students, Yuhas shows endless energy and the proverbial eyes-behind-her-head sensitivity to her charges. As they read “Sam Come Back” on Friday morning, she kept verbally encouraging students who struggled even when they were behind her as she walked the room, book in hand.
And if they got a little rambunctious when they were supposed to stay quiet, she didn’t scold. “I hear you,” she said, “why do I hear you?”
Yuhas said she always wanted to be a teacher, in large part because her father was one, but also because she was inspired by her own teachers in high school. Now 35, she’s been teaching at Wilkes-Barre Area for 14 years, 13 in elementary grades.
Aside from clearly enjoying working with the youngsters, she said “it still feels good to see the light bulb go on when they figure something out.”
While she expects to stay in the classroom for the foreseeable future, she has earned a principal certificate from the state, giving her a path to administration if and when she wants to take it.
Seventeen LifeChanger awards will be given out this year: one grand prize worth $10,000; four finalists will get $5,000 each; 10 winners will get $3,000; $5,000 will go to the “Spirit Award Winner” who has the most community support for their nomination; and another $5,000 to the Spotlight Award Winner will go to someone in a support role such as secretary or office manager.