Jen Kerley has had a passion for health for many years, but her biggest inspiration as a health teacher at Prairieview School is seeing her students grow in their learning.
“I want to give them tools to help them live healthy and productive lives,” she said. With the care and consideration she displays for each student, it’s no wonder that Kerley was nominated to be featured in myWaukee by Jori Nieman and Gracie Havnen.
Kerley went to college to pursue a community health education degree. During her first year working with all age groups for a county health department, she discovered that she especially enjoyed working in schools. She decided to return to school for teaching and earned a master’s degree in education. After six years of teaching middle school health in a Chicago suburb, she and her family moved to the Des Moines area in 2010. Kerley spent a few years teaching health at Waukee Middle School and is now finishing up her first year as a ninth grade teacher at Prairieview School.
While Kerley teaches a wide variety of health topics—from fitness and nutrition to diseases and first aid—her main goal is to impart lifelong skills to her students so they can continue to learn after they leave her classroom. For example, if a student needs to know about a subject like heart disease later on in their life, “they might not be able to recall all the information, but I hope I’ve given them the tools and skills to obtain the information that will be useful for them,” said Kerley.
The life skills taught by Kerley include goal-setting, advocating for themselves and others, and being able to interpret health information and apply it to improve their own health. “That’s my goal for them, so they can enhance their health for the rest of their lives,” said Kerley.
When she’s not teaching, Kerley spends much of her time with her husband and three children. In the midst of juggling activities and work, they do whatever they can to be together as a family.