Where hearts and minds connect
By Julie Matuszewski; photo courtesy of Jane Lenz
This month, Jane Lenz celebrates 30 years with the Douglas County School District (DCSD). A Timber Trail Elementary (TTE) teacher of 15 years, Lenz opened TTE’s Significant Support Needs (SSN) program in 2007. “Where hearts and minds connect,” is more than just a phrase on the walls throughout TTE. It is a reminder that everyone is on their own path and when those paths cross, that intersection is what makes life meaningful and purposeful. For Lenz, her path to special education has been an honor and a humbling experience as she partners with families for the six years of their child’s elementary education.
Lenz and her husband of 35 years have lived in the Castle Pines community for nine years. They have two grown sons that graduated from DCSD schools and two young grandchildren attending kindergarten in DCSD. Lenz enjoys the small town feel of Castle Pines, visiting the community’s small parks with her grandchildren and taking walks with her husband along the trails. When she isn’t teaching, Lenz loves to walk in the fresh air with the stunning mountain views.
When Lenz turned 20, she worked in a Chicago summer camp for individuals with Cerebral Palsy. This experience altered Lenz’s path of being either a nurse or an actress. As an SSN teacher, she finds she is a little bit of all three.
Lenz is still in awe of the role she’s been called to fill. Each day she offers her students consistent programming in their educational journey as they conquer monumental tasks like speaking their first words or communicating a need with an assistive technology device. Lenz feels every child deserves to receive the best education possible, without labels or limits. Being placed in the least restrictive environment, gaining necessary life skills, and learning how to communicate with people is imperative to the academic growth and social-emotional success of her students. It has always been Lenz’s passion to help each child be a part of their community to the fullest extent possible.
In the spring of 2017, Lenz was awarded the DCSD Apple Award for Elementary Educator of the Year. This was a huge surprise and honor for Lenz. Humbled and encouraged to be recognized for her God-given talents, Lenz’s greatest reward will always and forever be fostering her students’ love of learning, encouraging them to be the best version of themselves, and guiding them to discover their unique strengths.
This school year has been the most challenging in Lenz’s teaching career. With any challenge, said Lenz, comes the opportunity for growth. She is surrounded by amazing TTE professionals who encourage one another to grow and learn the new skills of teaching remotely. Lenz’s students continue to teach and astound her with their resiliency. When Lenz is faced with a problem, it is her students that teach her there is always a solution and to solve it with a smile.
Whether dancing outside at the car pool drop-off and pick-up or singing show tunes in the teacher’s lounge, Lenz brings a smile to everyone at the school. Principal Michele Radke said, “We are so very fortunate to have Jane at Timber Trail.” Each day Lenz feels blessed to be a member of the TTE family.