Anyone who knows anything about education at Estherville Lincoln Central knows Lili Jensen. In fact, you could say Lili Jensen is education at Estherville Lincoln Central.
On Tuesday, Sept. 23 at 6:30 p.m. at the Estherville Elks Lodge, Jensen will be the featured honoree at the annual Champions of Education banquet. Jensen is receiving the honor from the Estherville Lincoln Central School Foundation.
“It’s just an award presented every year to someone who has dedicated their life to education,” said Betty Ann Rosfjord, Foundation board member. The banquet is open to the public. Tickets are $15 and are available at ELC school offices, Fifth Street Salon, Racine’s and Emmet County State Bank. A social hour and dinner will precede the program and dessert auction.
Jensen’s educational journey is a testament to her commitment and dedication to learning for herself and others. A graduate of the Buena Vista University Spencer Center in 1979, she received her master’s degree with endorsements in reading and library media from Mankato State University.
“I wasn’t going to not get that degree because I wanted to teach,” Jensen recalls. “I really appreciated that Buena Vista has continued with that program.” Jensen today teaches for the Buena Vista University Online and Professional Studies program.
Jensen is district library director for pre-kindergarten through high-school seniors and teaches classes at the K-3 and 9-12 level. In high school, she collaborates with other teachers to help provide students with research skills. Essentially, she collaborates with teachers in the research component of their classes. She also works with teachers to make students’ work more accessible through reading strategies. While she works most closely with the ELC English department, she also supports other students through the writing process.
“I work with the teacher as much as I do with the student,” Jensen said. “I work with students, I work with teacher, and I work as an administrator with the library.”
Jensen credits “unbelievable support” with aides Mavis King at the elementary level and Sandy Giffrow at the high school. “My administration is unbelievably supportive too,” said Jensen.
At the elementary level, Jensen shows students how to take care of books and how to use shelf markers to put books back in the right place. She also teaches elementary students how to make a distinction between fiction and nonfiction and how to determine separate genres or types of writing.
“My main goal is to just get these kids to love to read,” Jensen said. “We learn about the value of reading. If the pleasure is there, the value is learned, almost vicariously. I just believe in the power of the word.”
Elementary students even learn the Dewey decimal system and how to use online card catalogues.
In the high school, students are at a “point of need” so there is a direct application of research methods to what they’re learning. “It makes sense to them because they can put it in an immediate context,” Jensen said.
Jensen’s own love of reading began very early. Her mother was also a teacher for 13 years and instilled a dedication for reading in her early. Jensen worked at the Estherville Public Library in high school. That was what motivated her interest in the library profession.
While there are many personal rewards in the teaching profession, for Jensen it comes down to the students.
“It’s the response of the kids,” she said. “It’s being with the kids and their response. My high-school kids will lift me up as much as the little ones.”
In a number of ways, learning and teaching have come full circle for Jensen.
She taught for seven years in the same classroom in which she studied with her science teacher Harold Shugart, one of the many teachers she enjoyed. “That’s why I teach,” Jensen said. “It’s because of all the teachers I had in my lifetime.”
Another teacher she remembers fondly is Joyce Moklestad whom she had as a teacher both in third grade and for eighth-grade history. “She’s absolutely amazing,” Jensen said.
“I can’t think of anything I would rather do,” Jensen said. “Being around kids keeps you young. It keeps you young at heart. I always say I learn more from them than they learn from me. It’s just wonderful to see their enthusiasm. All of a sudden you see it through their eyes and see the wonder of it all.”