The Annual Community Awards Gala, first held by the Woodbury Area Chamber of Commerce in 2012, recognizes the individuals and nonprofits in the community that make Woodbury a great place to live, work and play.
“You can’t be an outstanding community without outstanding people,” says chamber president Laurie Staiger. “We really wanted to have a platform where we could recognize an educator of the year, a nonprofit of the year, a volunteer of the year and a business of the year.”
This January, the winning nominee for 2020’s Educator of the Year award was Jacquelyn Bock, a math teacher at Woodbury High School. Staiger says the chamber members had a difficult time choosing between the three nominees for 2020. Ultimately the two things put Bock over the edge as the winner were the nomination letter from a student’s parent and Bock’s own story about her teaching experience.
“[The letter] could not have been more heartfelt,” Staiger says. “It painted a clear picture on the positive impact Jacquelyn [Bock] had in this student’s life.”
The parent who wrote the letter recommending Bock as Educator of the Year was Woodbury resident Mary Woodley-Douglas. Woodley-Douglas explains that her daughter Lucy always had difficulty with math. “It just never really clicked with her,” she says. From tutoring to study programs, nothing helped.
“Every day [Lucy] came home from school, we spent probably an hour where I would reteach the math assignment to help her get it done,” Woodley-Douglas says. It wasn’t easy on the family, especially with her nightshift job starting at 7 p.m.
But when Lucy started ninth grade, she abruptly stopped needing help with her math assignments. “I was shocked, like, ‘Are you sure?’ I couldn’t believe it,” Woodley-Douglas says. Ninth grade is the first year Lucy had Bock as her math teacher.
“Before I had [Ms. Bock] it was kind of hard for me because I didn’t quite understand,” Lucy says. “When I met her, she made math easier because she did a lot of visuals and helped explain it more than other math teachers.”
Woodley-Douglas says that for the two years that Lucy had Bock as her math teacher, she didn’t have to assist with any homework. “Lucy felt comfortable going to school if she needed help with it,” Woodley-Douglas says. “Everything just clicked, and it was really nice.”
As it turns out, this lightbulb moment of understanding is exactly the reason Bock got into teaching in the first place. “I remember when I was a student and I just got it, and everything came together,” Bock says. “And my absolute favorite thing about being a teacher, specifically in math, is that I get to relive all of my students’ lightbulb moments every single day.”
Bock’s aspiration to become a teacher started early. “I, like many kindergartners, was in awe of school,” Bock says. “When I was 4, I wanted to be a ballerina but as soon as I turned 5, I was going to be a teacher. And so in kindergarten, I wanted to be a kindergarten teacher. In first grade, I wanted to be a first grade teacher. And that pattern followed me all the way up through high school.”
In her high school days, another pivotal experience influenced Bock’s choice to become a math teacher. Her pre-calculus teacher, Paula Dietzsch, who is also a teacher at Woodbury High School, sat Bock down to try to convince her to go into engineering. “I was like, ‘But I don’t want to be an engineer,’” Bock says. “And she said, ‘Jackie, you’re too good at math, you need to be an engineer.’”
This was when Bock had a lightbulb moment of her own. “I was like, ‘Oh. I want to be a teacher, what if I was a math teacher?’ And she thought about it and said, ‘Yeah, that would work. I’m okay with that,’” Bock says, laughing at the memory. “And here I am as her coworker now.”