INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. — Incline High School teacher Jeni Cross was recently selected as the fifth Truckee Hometown SEARS-Sierra Sun Teacher of the Year finalist.
Cross was recognized for her dedication to students and foreign language education. Incline High School Principal Stacey Cooper describes Cross as conscientious, humble and committed to global education.
“I was so proud to hear she was acknowledged as a teacher of the year finalist,” said Cooper. “She really puts her heart and soul in what she does.”
Students enthusiastically responded to the news.
“She is a really amazing teacher,” said student, Alec Ross, “you never get bored in class.”
On April 4, Charles Riley owner of Truckee Hometown SEARS, Michael Gelbman publisher of the Sierra Sun and Stephanie Bosco of Plumas Bank, presented Cross with a finalist certificate, $50 gift certificate to Truckee Hometown SEARS and a $50 to La Fondue restaurant.
Jeni Cross does not shy away from a challenge. She decided to study French so that she could conquer the subject that was hardest for her in High School.
Years later, when she found herself struggling to complete a Master’s degree program in France, she used tape recordings, photocopies of classmates notes, and her own notes to piece together what she needed to learn.
Again, she conquered the language, writing her thesis on second language acquisition, in French. Cross approaches the teaching profession with the same zest and determination.
She stretches herself and challenges her students to do the same, which is just one reason she was selected as a Teacher of the Year finalist.
Cross originally from Washington, graduated from High School in Alaska and attended college at the University of Idaho. After completing her first year she saw an advertisement in the paper and decided to transfer to Boise State University her sophomore year to participate in the University Studies Abroad Consortium.
The program focused on the study of Basque language and culture and provided the opportunity for Cross to study in France for one year. Boise State University now offers an official Basque Studies Program in addition to the study abroad component Cross, and some of her former students have completed.
After studying one year in France, Cross transferred back to University of Idaho where she completed her BA in French. Cross was recruited her Senior year to work for American Airlines as a flight attendant based out of New York City.
She soon discovered her job was most enjoyable when passengers found out she spoke French and she was able to teach them a few words. She realized being a flight attendant was not for her and relocated to the Tahoe area to begin a teaching career.Cross first taught French at Incline High School, in a temporary position with an emergency credential.
While teaching middle school and high school French her second year, Cross won a Rotary Scholarship to pay for Master’s degree program in France. She completed the program earning a MA in Linguistics.
Cross then taught middle school Spanish and French at Incline Academy now Lake Tahoe School. After taking time off to have her twin sons, Cross returned to Incline High School where she has taught the past ten years. She is now Nationally Board Certified and currently enjoys teaching students beginning Spanish and all levels of French.
“It’s an honor to teach them, work with them and the families of Incline,” said Cross. “I wouldn’t want to teach anywhere else.”
Parent nominators praised Cross’ commitment to students citing numerous ways she keeps students interested and engaged in learning French language and culture.
Cross uses music, food, performance, and current event discussions to immerse students in French culture and excite them about learning the language. She also organizes a France and Italy trip and encourages exchange programs to further students’ studies.
“The excitement of exploring French culture inspires her students to want to learn the language so they can use it,” wrote one parent nominator. “It helps them to start to see the world and current events through the eyes of another culture; this will not only inspire them to learn French, but to become better citizens in a global society.”
Students agree, Cross’ use of bringing culture into the classroom excites them about learning.
“She makes French amazing,” said one student.
Cross strives to create a student centered learning environment and make the curriculum as accessible as possible. She gives students the opportunity to apply the skills they are learning in class to topics of their choice. Cross consistently finds ways to keep students active and excited about what they are learning.
“She really makes a great learning environment,” said student Oliver Larson, “she tells interactive stories that make us use French.”
Students in Cross’ classes are definitely engaged and having fun, but most importantly they are learning. Almost every year Cross has students place nationally on the National French Exam and students perform well on the French AP test. Many students also go on to study languages in college and abroad.
“(Cross) is very passionate about her work,” said Principal Cooper. “She is committed to the development of the whole student.”
Cross works to reach all students and make sure they are reaching their full potential. Students know that she is dedicated to their learning and will not let them fail.
“She really helps students understand instead of just moving on with the class,” said student Anna Hartman.
“If she sees that you are having trouble she makes sure to get on you and makes sure you are doing your work,” said student Alecia DuMonte.
Cross sees this as her responsibility as a teacher. If she does not do her job, she knows that students cannot to theirs, learn.
She is constantly looking for ways to change her craft and better reach her current students. She describes her students as motivated, bright and hardworking and is excited to share her passion for the French and global education with them.
“When you attempt to and communicate in another person’s language it opens doors,” said Cross, “in business, science, French is spoken around the world and is a very functional language.”
Cross also hopes students develop problem solving skills and critical thinking skills through their study of foreign languages.
She herself continues to study and enjoy French culture, reading classic novels in their original French and traveling to France. She has passed her passion for French to her own eleven-year-old sons who participated in exchange programs in France this past year.