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Millcreek Journal

William Penn Elementary dual language pioneer honored with Excel teaching award

May 03, 2021 12:49PM ● By Heather Lawrence

Jennifer Bond-Foulke of William Penn Elementary was surprised with the Granite Education Foundation Excel Award. (Granite School District)

By Heather Lawrence | [email protected]

Second-grade English and language arts teacher Jennifer Bond-Foulke has a lot of fans, and none of them were surprised when she was presented with the Excel teaching award in March. 

Each year, 10 educators in Granite School District are selected as Excel winners from dozens of nominations. Bond-Foulke, who teaches at William Penn Elementary in Millcreek, is one of this year’s recipients. Her students, family, friends and school community were all in on the secret, and celebrated the surprise announcement with her on St. Patrick’s Day. 

“It seems everyone knew but me,” she said. “The announcement team filed into our room with cameras rolling, and it was definitely memorable. I cherish the notes and kind words I received from students and families. I feel very honored to receive this award.”

One of Bond-Foulke’s fans is Carol Fackler, a literacy coach at Crestview Elementary. “Jen is my friend and former colleague. She is a truly ‘Excel’-lent recipient of the Excel award and multi-talented. She is a beloved and choice teacher.” 

Fackler recalled that Bond-Foulke was one of two educators who started the Spanish Dual Immersion Program. The program is now flourishing, with three languages taught to students beginning in first grade. But the early days of the program were rough. 

“My job was to teach the [first grade] students math, literacy, social studies and science in Spanish,” Bond-Foulke said. “The first two months were rough for my little first graders. They were adjusting to all day school, missing mom and having a teacher that spoke in another language for half the day.” 

Using creative teaching skills and her strong literacy background from her time as a reading specialist, Bond-Foulke made the program work.

“We did a lot of singing, and I acted out everything. I did everything possible to make learning the target language comprehensible to the students. I worked hard at teaching them to read and write in Spanish,” she said. 

The hard work paid off, and soon teachers and students from schools across the state were coming to visit her classroom to see how she made the dual immersion program work. She worked with the district to create a language proficiency report and other curriculum targets. 

Bond-Foulke has worked in various roles at William Penn for 25 years. After eight years of teaching Spanish Dual Language Immersion, she switched back to her current role and passion, teaching second- grade English literacy. 

“I love teaching literacy and seeing the growth in my students, and I try to expose them to books of different genres and levels. I also love to hear from both students and parents that their kids love reading,” Bond-Foulke said.

Some of her favorite books for reading aloud in class are “Because of Winn-Dixie,” “Charlotte’s Web” and “My Father’s Dragon.” She’s noticed that her stronger readers also like series such as “I Survived,” “Whatever After” and “The Magic Tree House.”

“She is an amazing educator. She cares deeply for her students and colleagues. Jen goes above and beyond, and thinks about the whole child, not just test scores and academics,” said fellow second- grade William Penn teacher Alissa Pope. “She’s concerned about students’ social and emotional well-being, and deserves this award.”

Bond-Foulke’s principal Nichole Higgins also praised her contributions and role at the school. 

“Ms. Bond-Foulke is an amazing veteran educator. She meets the needs of all students due to her incredible knowledge of best practices. She is an essential member of the William Penn community, and the Excel Award is a well-deserved achievement,” Higgins said.