What Keeps NH Teachers Going: Meet Jennifer Menken, who teaches 3rd grade

Jennifer Menken, a third grade teacher at Hooksett Memorial High School in Hooksett, has been teaching for 16 years. She was a 2024 teacher of the year semifinalist in New Hampshire.

By Katy Savage

February 5, 2024

Editor’s note: Amidst a teacher shortage both locally and nationally, we’re asking New Hampshire teachers what keeps them teaching and what challenges they face in their profession. Here’s the second installment of our four-part series. (Read the first interview with Liz Duclos, New Hampshire’s 2024 teacher of the year, here.

Jennifer Menken, a third grade teacher at Hooksett Memorial High School in Hooksett, has been teaching for 16 years. She was a 2024 teacher of the year semifinalist in New Hampshire. We ask her some questions below.

Granite Post: How did you end up becoming a teacher?
Jennifer Menken: I really thought that I wanted to be a dolphin trainer. When I was growing up, I knew for sure that that’s what I wanted to do. So I went to college and I got a degree in science and then I became an intern at the Mystic Aquarium. I worked with seals, sea lions, and penguins. And it turns out that it was not my dream job at all. I wondered what I might be good at. I had done a lot of tutoring in high school and college and I thought maybe I’d like to become a teacher. I observed a teacher in Manchester and I just immediately fell in love with her job and what she did all day. So I went back to school. I went to night school and school on Saturdays and then during the day I worked in an elementary school as a special education paraprofessional. 

GP: What are some challenges you face as a teacher?

JM: The number one change that I see is the demand on teachers, the expectations. When I got into teaching, I never would have assumed it was a high-pressure job. I think the biggest challenge is the high number of demands on teachers and the amount of time that that takes. There’s professional development that you need to do. There’s parent communication you need to do and then there’s the direct work and lesson planning with your students that you have to do. There’s paperwork. Sometimes it’s difficult, like where do you draw the line? 

@granitepost

What do teachers love about their jobs? Hear what Jennifer Menken of Hookest Memorial School had to say. 👩‍🏫 #newhampshire #newham #newengland #teaching #teachersbelike #newhampshireliving #newhampshiremade #newhampshireblogger #newhampshirelove

♬ My Love Mine All Mine – Mitski

GP: What keeps you teaching?

JM: I absolutely love teaching. Out of everyone I know, I love my job the most. The only part of my day that I don’t like is the sound of my alarm clock in the morning. Other than that, I am just happy as a clam at school. I really feel like my class, we’re like a family. I enjoy spending time with them. I put a lot of work and effort into it. At the end of the day, I’m just really proud of what I do for work. 

 GP: How many hours do you spend working a week?

JM: Around 60 now. I did clock it a few years ago, and I was at 91 hours per week. I knew it was a lot so that’s why I decided to start tracking it. I think parent communication is huge. And so I put a lot of time into parent communication. And then also I’m always making slides. We have Apple CDs in our classroom, which has been amazing, but it’s forced me to transform all of my lessons into slideshow presentations. I’m always trying to change my lessons and make them more interesting. I’m also on some committees at school that take extra time as well. 

GP: Why do you think people are leaving the profession? 

JM: The amount of work that a good teacher has to put in, when you compare that to the salary, I think that that is a huge reason why there’s so many people leaving. For students going into teaching, if they have to take out student loans, it’s going to take them a very long time to pay them back on a teacher’s salary. 

 

Author

  • Katy Savage

    Katy Savage is an award-winning reporter with more than 10 years of experience working in daily, weekly and digital news organizations as both an editor and reporter. Based in Enfield, Katy is a New England native and has a passion for telling stories about where she grew up. In her free time, she enjoys running and being outside as much as possible.

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