As she prepares for her retirement in just a few short weeks, Joanne Jensen looks back on her 34-year teaching career, which was spent entirely in Weyburn.
"I attended WCS as a student," she shared. "A fun fact, I actually met my husband in Grade 10 in science class."
Graduating in 1984, she returned from university to teach at Weyburn Comprehensive School to cover a maternity leave for Brenda King. She then taught for two years at the Weyburn Junior High, before returning to WCS where she has been ever since. While she enjoyed teaching the junior students, the school division had a position for her at WCS where she could work half time while raising small children.
It was at the Comp, though, where she found her stride.
"I ended up teaching English, which was my major for quite a few years, and then I moved into teaching grade 10 Psychology," she explained. "Every Grade 10 would rotate through different Social teachers, and they would rotate through a Psychology section of mine. So I love that, getting to meet every single Grade 10 student."
In 1999, Jensen moved into the role of Student Services Career Development Counselor.
"When I moved into that, we were called 'guidance counselors', and we didn't have social workers at our school, and so we did a lot of counseling to students and we acted as a career counselor as well," she noted. "Luckily the school division progressed across the spectrum and maybe even across Canada and now schools have Social workers, so our role now, instead of being a guidance counselor, we're called career counselors."
"It's just the most fantastic role because it's so positive," shared Jensen. "Whether students are entering the work field after high school, or they're going to post-secondary, helping them plan for their future has been really rewarding and pretty exciting no matter what path they're deciding to go on."
She said some students know exactly what they want to do and need help finding the path to get there, and others don't know what they want to do and need help figuring out their interests as they translate to careers.
"The biggest thing that I tell teens is they don't have to make these life decisions at the end of Grade 12. They can change their mind five times, 10 times, but it's just to give them a place to start, and deescalate any stress that they're feeling about making those huge life decisions."
"That's one of the best things about being in student services is finding out what kids want to do, what their dreams are, and it might just be graduating and helping them find a way to get those credits," she said, noting some just want to join the workforce, others want to pursue post-secondary studies. "Post-secondary isn't for everyone, and so it's just as important to help those students who aren't going off to post-secondary to leave here feeling that they've got a plan."
It's always been a priority for Jensen to ensure these young adults feel good about themselves, because, "We all choose different paths".
While she has found it rewarding to have a different challenge each day, and it's also been fun to be helping the children of her own past students, Jensen said her role as SRC Advisor, which was very complementary to career and guidance counseling, has allowed her to work with, in particular, student leaders.
"Seeing students work through those leadership skills and develop those skills and then go out and be leaders in their profession or in their communities, and many of my past SRC students are in Weyburn or I keep in touch with them and they're doing amazing things."
Jensen pointed out Steve Schuck, Dan Cugnet, Kendra Gonczy, and Davin Mainil are prime examples of former SRC members who have continued on in leadership roles.
"I think that's my real legacy. I mean, the legacy of student services has been amazing, and it's been the best job," she noted. "But the legacy with all my leadership work has been something I am extremely proud of. I've planned two Relay for Life events and hosted a provincial leadership conference with 800 delegates back in 2008, and then we did a national leadership conference at WCS, and I chaired that and that was in 2012. We had 1,000 delegates here from across Canada."
She said the national conference was certainly a highlight of her career.
While events like the Fowl Supper and Sunstock were held for many years leading up to 2020, Jensen helped bring the Giving Tree to success for 15 years, even during COVID.
"It's just such a beautiful Christmas initiative where all the staff and students come together to donate children's gifts, and nonperishables, to make up all these baskets and have them raffled off at elementary schools has just been amazing to watch that, and to see the reaction of that."
She said she has also enjoyed fundraising for TeleMiracle and other community organizations, and there were many times her own family could attest they may have spent more hours at the school than they did at home.
"It was a second home for the five of us. Whether I was planning events, running events, helping with events, supervising, they were a part of it, and they were helping in whatever capacity they could."
For this reason, she said she may continue substitute teaching.
"I think I'll put my name on this sub-list and stay connected to WCS. It's pretty hard to walk away from this place."
Jensen recently presented Cooper Walbaum with his Tom Zandee Humanitarian Award, and she said getting choked up wasn't usual for her. It was, in fact, a unique situation.
"Cooper is in my homeroom, so I think with him it was just so much trying to figure out a way to help him meet his goals, as he really wanted to graduate with his peers, so we had to be pretty creative in taking classes while he was in the hospital and things like that. So I know how hard he worked for it." Read more at the link below.
"I'm invested with these kids, so when they have a dream or they want to work towards something, I'm right there along with them," Jensen affirmed.
As for what's next...
"There's three of them under three, so I'll enjoy having some flexibility to spend a little bit more time with them, and I have a few ideas for some projects."
With a legacy steeped in community, and in helping others find what inspires them in life, Jensen will likely remain involved, doing what she loves for many years to come.