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Bolingbrook Teacher Shares 'Mechanics of Teaching' With Others

After teaching first grade for more than a decade, Margaret Jenkins is also a published author.

Independence teacher and author Margaret Jenkin. Credit: Valley View
Independence teacher and author Margaret Jenkin. Credit: Valley View

Submitted by Valley View School District:

When Margaret Jenkins took an aptitude test years ago, the results indicated she should seek a career as an auto mechanic because of her analytical and diagnostic skills.

Now after a long and stellar career in education, including more than 14 years as a first-grade teacher at Independence Elementary School in Bolingbrook, she has written and published a book that has taken her full circle in the vocational world.

“When I started jotting down notes for the book, I remembered that stupid aptitude test and I realized teachers are a lot like auto mechanics,” she said. “We use diagnostics and analytical skills and so do they. Auto mechanics need to keep up with new trends. Teachers do too.”

Thus was born “The Mechanics of Teaching,” a book Jenkins says is for just about anyone “who needs a little inspiration” including parents, teachers-to-be, and, of course, current teachers.

The chapters all have automotive-related headings, including:

  • That New Car Smell: The First Three Weeks of School—Highlights what is actually done at the end of the school year and during the summer in order to make the first three weeks of school run smoothly.  Included are activities with students to help build a sense of community in the classroom.
  • Beep, Beep, Vroom, Vroom: I Think Like a First Grader—When setting up the classroom it’s important to keep first graders in mind.  Items that are to be used by the first graders should be at their level.  The visual items on the walls are placed so that everyone can see posters, word wall words, word charts, etc.  Sit at each table to make sure a child's view is not obstructed. 
  • The Roar of the Engine: Where Does My Inspiration Come From?—Reflections on why Jenkins became a teacher.  Inspiration came from many areas including background experiences, other teachers, professional development/ books, and The Magic School Bus! 
  • Service With a Smile: Smile Bigger and More Often--You only have one time to make a first impression! But teachers make impressions every day. This chapter contains ideas to help each day run a bit easier, so you can "smile bigger and more often". 
  • Model T's, Mustangs, and Convertibles: Ideas of Differentiation in the Classroom—Each child is a unique puzzle.  What works for one child doesn't always work for another child.  In fact, what works one year for a group of students, may not work another year with a different group of students.

Jenkins, who was born with bilateral hip dysplasia and has had six surgeries on her right hip and three on her left hip, never thought of herself as an author until fellow Independence 1st grade teacher Barb Prater suggested she needed to find a way to share her life experiences with others.

While recovering from her latest surgery on her right hip in December 2011, she “reluctantly” started the book. And 18 months later, while recovering from her latest surgery on her left hip, she finished it.

Last year Xlibris LLC agreed to publish it.

“Do I know everything? Am I better than anyone else? No,” she emphatically stated. “Teaching is an ongoing adventure. You’ve gotta share what you do. Everybody needs to borrow from one another.”

And she’s quick to add: “If something doesn’t work with a group of students, get out those diagnostic skills to find something that does work.”

Good advice for both teachers and auto mechanics.

Jenkins’ book is available in both hardcover and paperback on Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.com.

Anything is Possible February 21, 2014 at 10:53 PM
Wonderful to hear of an uplifting story coming out of Bolingbrook schools. Way to go on your recent publication.

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