VINTON, Ohio — Vinton County Local Schools teacher, Megan Macke, has recently been awarded the 2021 Jenco Award.
The Jenco Award is given by the Jenco Foundation and the Foundation for Appalachian Ohio.
According to the press release, “five individuals dedicated to service in Appalachian Ohio recently accepted honors from the Foundation for Appalachian Ohio’s Jenco Foundation Fund in a virtual online event. The Jenco Awards recognize Appalachian Ohio’s unsung heroes who have devoted themselves to direct, caring action that contributes to the quality of life in the region.”
Macke, who teaches middle school, said Travis West, Vinton County 4-H extension educator nominated her.
“He texted me and asked if I checked my email,” Macke said. “That’s how I found out that I had won the award from Travis.”
Macke was unaware of the Jenco Award prior to the recognition.
“I was surprised, I had never heard of the Jenco Award before,” Macke said. “The more that I’ve learned about it, I’m really honored and humbled by it. The other four people, listening to the projects that they have done was humbling. They’ve done amazing things, so I guess I feel kind of undeserving.”
Classroom projects are what led to Macke’s nomination, which she said was even more surprising because, “it’s not really anything that I’ve done specifically, it’s more what I’ve helped my students do.”
Community service projects started after Macke’s classes read various novels and were then asked, “do you really have the power, as kids, to change your world and change your community.” This led Macke’s class to start a school garden since the area was a food desert.
“From that, they started [it all],” Macke said. “I bet we had 10 or 15 different projects going that year. All of them were projects that they had looked at needs within our school, within our community and in the world as a whole. I just kind of acted like a facilitator and provided you know, mentorship and outside adult mentors as needed.”
Macke said after permissions were granted, students wrote emails and made phone calls.
Since the projects have started, Macke has became a sponsor for the school’s Junior Beta Club to expand service.
“I can’t list for you all the things that we’ve done, we’ve done lots of different things for the community,” Macke said.
Macke said it may seem odd because she teaches reading and language arts, but it fits.
“We read novels where kids did powerful things and then they kind of took off from there and decided that they could do some pretty powerful things in their community as well,” Macke said.
Macke said she does not know exactly the way the projects impact the kids, but it is something they remember.
“I just talked to one [former student] at a volleyball game the other night,” Macke said. “[She said] ‘like I don’t remember much about seventh grade other than that Lead the Feed stuff we did.’ She’s like, ‘we worked on that all the time.’”
Macke said novels were read that year, as well as incorporating reading and writing through research, emailing and communication skills through phone calls and emails.
“You incorporate all that,” Macke said. “I mean, it takes all of those skills to do projects like that. That’s kind of a cool thing. They don’t realize that they’re using all of those skills and the real world career connection skills that we want them to have through doing these projects, but it’s a lot more fun than giving them assignments.”
Macke’s classroom projects have included planting pepper and tomato seeds and donating to people, Contain Hunger — a container gardening project — a Fair to Family food project, trash pickup and a recycling project that has led to a decrease in trashcans at the school.
All projects are funded through grants and community donations.
Currently Macke is working on a peer mentor program.
While Macke said the award is an honor, the true honor is watching her kids in action.
“I love seeing what the kids are capable of and watching them realize what they’re capable of,” Macke said. “Seeing the light bulb turn on or whatever, it’s amazing to watch them realize the power that they have to change their community and to make a change.”
© 2021, Ohio Valley Publishing, all rights reserved.
Brittany Hively is a staff writer with Ohio Valley Publishing. Follow her on Twitter at @britthively or reach her at (740) 444-4303 ext 2555.