LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — Lee County Middle High School health educator, Jessica Napier, has been launched into the national spotlight as an award-winning teacher.
The Lee County native has been teaching since 2003, and she was recently recognized as SHAPE America's 2020 National Health Education Teacher of the Year.
"It was such a shock," Napier said. "I don't think there's ever been a time in my life when I was so surprised and overcome with emotion."
LEX18 talked to a few of her former students, who all said she made her lesson plans different and interesting every day.
"I feel like she really tries to incorporate new ideas and new lessons that maybe some other physical education teachers don't, and really make it fun for the kids," Napier's former student, Maggie Durbin, said.
Another former student said Napier has made a lasting impression on her.
"She's somebody that not only works hard in the classroom but outside of the classroom," former student, Katie Bowman, said.
"She does a lot for the community and she takes care of people."
Former student Erin McIntosh wrote a recommendation letter on behalf of Napier for the award, and she said Napier is able to connect with students in a way that most teachers are not.
"Her character stands out the most," McIntosh said. "She was always kind and compassionate and caring. She was always fair and made sure each student got the education that they needed."
Napier said when she's in the classroom she makes an effort to shake every students' hand and look each student in the eye every day. She said that lets them know she cares.
"If we make sure they're fed, make sure they feel safe, make sure that they feel welcomed and loves, that's going to help them be better learners," Napier said. "That's why it's so important that they feel seen every day when they come in the room."
Napier said the pandemic has made it tough to connect with her students in the same way, so she is looking forward to get everyone back in the classroom safely.