Fifth-grade teacher Jared Hottenstein named Bucks County Teacher of the Year
By Matt Schickling
Wire Staff Reporter
Jared Hottenstein is a thoughtful man, that is, when he finds a moment for himself.
A father of six young children and a teacher to many more through his 13-year career at Jamison Elementary School, Hottenstein found that in seeking to impart knowledge, he became a student of his own profession.
“You can’t take yourself too seriously,” Hottenstein said. “Because the longer I teach, the more I realize it’s not about me. It’s all about the kids.”
It’s not surprising that he feels this way or that the community would recognize him for his work: This month, Hottenstein was named Bucks County Teacher of the Year for 2013-2014, after being nominated by a member of the community and then chosen for the finals by a public vote.
From there, he was judged by a committee composed of employees from the Bucks First Federal Credit Union, who presented the award to Hottenstein at an event on March 6.
But Hottenstein is quick to credit his achievement to the school, his colleagues, his family and, most importantly, the students in his fifth-grade class.
“I think so many teachers think we’re the celebrities in the classroom,” Hottenstein said. “Getting this award, people might think I’m the celebrity, but it’s reversed. In schools, kids are the celebrities – they’re the stars. We’re just a name on the credits list.”
He allows the interest of his students to guide the depth of their lessons, a method that he believes fosters a more substantial educational experience than simply teaching from a prescribed plan.
“I think we limit what kids can do by what we ask them to do,” Hottenstein said. “If we ask them basic questions and give them a basic test, we’re going to get basic answers on that test. But if we give them the opportunity to be great, they become great.”
Hottenstein puts this idea to practice by holding class meetings with an open forum format, where students are given a platform to discuss issues essential to class progression. Usually these arise from negative experiences, but often end in positive outcomes, Hottenstein said.
In one particular instance, the meeting was about gossipping. To address this, Hottenstein asked a student to squeeze toothpaste from a tube.
“All right, now put it back in,” he said to the student.
He used this as a metaphor to demonstrate the power of words: once they are out, they will not go back in. His students got the message. He even gave them stickers reading “words are powerful” to put on their toothpaste at home as a reminder.
Though he teaches in Central Bucks School District, Hottenstein, his wife, Kim, and their children live on 11 acres of land in Zionsville. This home suits Hottenstein, an active outdoorsman. He taps his own maple trees to make syrup, teaches hunting safety at the Delaware Valley Fish and Game Association, and enjoys fishing and hiking. He also runs the children’s program at his church.
On top of that, he manages the ecology club at Jamison Elementary, where he leads the students in many projects involving nature and green initiatives. One of these projects involves planting a tree for each teacher who retires from the school, which has been about 15 so far. When asked what tree he would choose for himself, he hesitated for a moment.
“Poison ivy,” he said, laughing.
Matt Croyle, principal at Jamison Elementary, praised Hottenstein not just for his achievement, but for his modesty in accepting the award.
“He’s extremely humble,” Croyle said. “As a father of four children, I’d put any one of my kids in his classroom. That’s one of the best things you can say about a teacher.”
Hottenstein was just happy to share the award with his family, school, students and particularly his wife. He joked about the night of the award being their first date in five years.
But in a more serious way, he emphasized the importance of the people around him for his success in teaching.
“I think of people who have impacted my life: the colleagues I teach with, my fifth-grade team.” Hottenstein said. “You don’t get to be who you are without the influence of others.”