Barth willing to change to help students

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Best of the Best in the Classroom: Part 3

By Stephen Thomas

 SHEPHERDSVILLE - Bullitt Central instructor Jennifer Barth gave up teaching senior AP English to help develop and implement a pilot program involving reading components for younger students.

But that’s what dedicated teachers do when they realize that they could help more students by taking on a new challenge.

“Reading is preparing for life, to do anything,” she said. “They’re going to have to read large amounts of text. It’s harder teaching sophomores than AP but it’s much more rewarding.”

Barth’s commitment to improving students’ skills and preparing them for their future is a big reason Barth was named the 2011 Bullitt County High School Teacher of the Year.

Beginning in January, Barth started a new English II class with more emphasis on reading than writing. Barth created the core content of the class with help from principal Christy Coulter and other Bullitt Central teachers and administrators.

“I basically took the components of reading,” Barth said. “That’s what this class is built around. I think it’s a positive push, it helps develop reading skills for the next level.”

“This is part of English II, it is a credit course,” said Coulter. “It’s relevant to the students. It’s at the correct vigor level.”

The most important component to any class, according to Barth, is student motivation. The new class is no different.

“It’s the biggest thing,” she said. “You really have to win their hearts to get the best of them. I’m not just teaching reading, I’m teaching the whole child. Every teacher does this.”

Barth didn’t always plan to become a teacher. However, she was raised in Bowling Green with a mother and grandparents who were all teachers.

At one point Barth decided to pursue elementary teaching, but always enjoyed English. After becoming involved with a church youth group, she adapted to high school ages.

“Something inside just kind of clicked, to put my knowledge to work to help kids,” she said.

Barth earned English and Secondary Education degrees from Western Kentucky University. Her teaching career began as a long-term sub at Warren East High School.

In 2006 Barth began at Bullitt Central after moving to Louisville with her husband, Heath. She since acquired a Masters Degree in Reading Education from the University of Louisville.

“I had a passion for reading, especially for struggling readers,” she said, becoming a certified reading specialist for preschool through 12th grade.

Barth encourages a positive environment in the classroom. She surrounded her walls with various quotes as constant reminders.

“I try to be encouraging,” she said. “I can show them they’re valuable and have more choices in life. Reading skills boost confidence.”

Barth credited her mother, Jan Casada, for leaving a positive impression of perseverance in the classroom. Both Barth and Casada have earned the Campbellsville University Excellence in Teaching Award presented annually to state educators.

“It’s the hardest profession but the most rewarding,” said Barth. “I’m exhausted at the end of a good day. I’m not happy with just the status quo. I want to make the biggest impact. I care about the kids and I want to see them be prepared and successful in everything.”

Despite new challenges with the pilot reading program, Barth planned to continue her teaching efforts at Bullitt Central. She called her tenure a “great teaching experience” with support from Coulter and fellow teachers, while students remained friendly and respectful.

“This has been the toughest year but the most fun,” she said.

“For her to come in and be so excited about literacy, to revamp work and rebuild curriculum, it’s truly a labor of the heart,” Coulter said.

As a newer principal, Coulter said teachers like Barth help out with positive support toward the school.

 “It’s refreshing to find a positive and professional hard worker, that is such a gift,” said Coulter. “She cares about the whole school, she takes care of the National Honor Society, she organized and hard-working, she really well-respected by her colleagues.”

Barth’s pilot program has earned her awards and praise. He favorite part is not the recognition; rather, it’s the impact on her students’ lives.

“I try to do my best every day to teach the kids, that’s my number one goal,” she said. “A jump in their reading is as exciting as anything else I do.”