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Fort Madison teacher wins Golden Apple

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FORT MADISON (WGEM) -- Fort Madison Middle School teacher Jennifer Helling was awarded the April WGEM Golden Apple Award.

She says she comes from a family of teachers and knew from an early age that she also wanted to be the classroom. Helling said she got an early introduction to the profession from her aunt when she went to college to become a teacher.

"She would send me all of her old teacher books and stuff and I would play school second grade on," Helling explained. "That's all I ever wanted to be."

Helling has taught for school for 18 years, and she's currently the fifth grade math and science teacher.

Student Ashlan Blanchard nominated Helling for the Golden Apple Award. 

 "I just think she's a really amazing teacher and she deserves it a lot, she really does deserve it." Blanchard said.

Blanchard says Helling is a dedicated and wonderful teacher.

"She's sweet, she's generous, she's funny. She's just Mrs. Helling," Blanchard said.

Fellow fifth grade student Oliver Schelich agrees.

"Outgoing, funny, she's a really good teacher. If you wanted to have a fifth grade teacher, I would pick Mrs. Helling," Schelich said.

Helling says she believes teaching is all about balance.

"You can learn a lot and work really hard, but also have a lot of fun," Helling said.

Helling's students say she makes learning fun with her sense of humor and creativity. 

To break up the monotony during standardized state testing, Helling played a silly song for students to enjoy.

"When we took tests, we did our ISAP tests, and we did Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes," Blanchard explained.

Blanchard said that small break was enough to help her relax during the test taking.

"Really calm and happy, and it made me a lot more concentrated on the test," Blanchard said.

"We all need breaks and just so whenever I notice that I'm feeling just a little overwhelmed and the workload is just a little too stressful and it's just taking away from getting to enjoy our time together, I just make sure we put a break in there," Helling said.

Helling also helps students learning math with a version of the game Battleship.

"We're doing halves so we'll do one and two halves. And if it's a hit you say hit and you do a red check mark on that one." Schelich explained.

A fellow fifth grade teacher says Helling's fun and positive classroom environment ultimately creates success for her students.

"She uses a lot of positive chants with the kids and just getting their attention in a positive way, and they are just very encouraged to try their best," Fort Madison teacher Kim May said.

During a school year of added challenges due to the pandemic, Helling says she's this year she's also learned the importance of flexibility.

"You can plan as much as you want to, but until you handle the moment when things aren't going anywhere what you planned that really makes a difference," Helling said.

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Natalie Will

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