Jenni Vanderwalker is well known for her social studies teaching, her travels and her involvement with Future Leaders over the summer.
Though she has worked at WGHS for 18 years, the 2015-2016 school year will be her last because her family is moving Jupiter this summer.
Vanderwalker has taught African American history for nine of the years, ethic studies for nine of the years, taught government over the summer for one year and geography for all 18 years; geography is her favorite because she can use the experiences to teach others, Vanderwalker said.
Vanderwalker’s husband, who is a chemist, got an opportunity to run a lab called Tropichem in Jupiter so the Vanderwalker family will move down there.
“Jupiter, Florida is where the Cardinals have spring training and is the same latitude (for the geography kids) as the Bahamas. I’m moving to the tropics, where people go to vacation,” Vanderwalker said.
While her husband is working in the lab, Vanderwalker will continue to write and complete the two books she has been working on with hopes to publish them.
Brandi Parrott, now a junior, had Vanderwalker’s first hour geography class her freshman year.
“It was my favorite class. Whenever I would go in there, no matter what was going on she managed to make sure I was okay, and she also independently helped students, which was nice. She made sure everyone was in good spirits and passing her class,” Parrott said.
Parrott is currently Vanderwalker’s student assistant during sixth hour.
“The last day of her class freshman year, she asked me to be her student assistant the next year, but you can’t do that as a sophomore, so second semester last year, I found her, and she was more than excited to have me for this year,” Parrott said.
Freshman Molly Nash currently has Vanderwalker’s sixth hour geography A class.
“She knows a lot about the whole world. Like she’s traveled so much that when we learn about each different continent, she’s very informed about it which makes it easier to learn about. It’s fun hearing all her adventures and stories about what she’s done in different places. She brings a lot of energy to the class that a lot of teachers don’t have. I think for world geography you sort of need to have a sort of spunk,” Nash said about Vanderwalker’s class.
Vanderwalker not only taught classes but also sponsored clubs. She was the Varsity softball coach for four years, student council advisor for 10 years, class sponsor in 2004, 2008 and 2012, and invented Special Olympic Village (the junior’s activity on service day) through her leadership class and ran it for about five years.
Freshmen went through the Future Leaders program and upperclassmen who were Pacers have been part of a 13-year program started by Vanderwalker.
“My greatest achievement has been growing the PACERs program. The kids who are PACERs make a huge impact on the freshman. Positive attitudes change everything,” Vanderwalker said.