Woodside High Teacher Takes Students on 'Bus' through Europe

The Social Studies teacher at Woodside High School teaches a diverse range of students, receiving awards for her innovative style.

Whether she’s teaching AP European History, courses for English Language Learners, or dancing on the quad for school spirit days, Jenny Ortez tries to actively engage herself and her students.

As a single mother, Jenny Ortez started her career in education as a way to earn money as she pursued her college degree taking evening classes.

In 1998, she was hired as an Instructional Aide, where she tutored students with learning disabilities, helping the students with all school subjects.

Working with the students and staff at Woodside High School stimulated Ortez’s passion for the field of education.

It was no surprise then, that when she graduated five years later that she was offered a job as a Social Studies teacher.

“This department was a true family,” remarked Ortez.

Since she started teaching Social Studies in 2003, Instructional Vice Principal Diane Mazzei praised Ortez for her constant desire to improve herself.

“She tries to be better each year,” said Mazzuei.

Part of this self-improvement entailed helping out throughout the school, going above and beyond her duties as a teacher.

Ortez started the Advanced Placement European History program at Woodside High School, giving students a way to delve deeper into the subject.

In the class, students participate in a variety of interactive activities, including the “Ortez Exprez”. In the activity, Ortez sets up the classroom as a bus trip through Europe, where students take a journey through history from Marie Curie to surrealism.

Throughout her courses, Ortez emphasizes the need for students to become good citizens by being curious about goings-on in the world.

“My job as a teacher of social studies is to get the kids to ask questions about what they read, what they see on television”

As a history teacher, she attempts to have students examine who wrote the texts and what motives they might have for writing history the way they did.

Like many teachers, Ortez’s proudest teaching moments are when students clearly illustrate knowledge for a subject they once struggled with.

“When students don’t understand the concept and it finally hits them like a lightbulb,” explained Ortez, “That’s the proudest moment.”


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Nora August 19, 2012 at 04:50 PM
Excellent job Jenny for inspiring our kids to do better! You are teaching & thinking outside of the box! There will always be people that are threatened by the unknown... In this case a strong Latina making a difference! So proud!
Nancy Krosse August 19, 2012 at 06:17 PM
Buck Shaw you are the quintessential example of a buzz kill. Jenny Ortez is an outstanding teacher at Woodside High. She is passionate, inventive and smart. Perhaps we should take a look at your English instruction -- "They are not getting THERE moneys worth" When I went to school I learned the difference between there, their and they're. Maybe, instead of wasting everyone's time being a critical nuisance you could volunteer some time at your local community high school and see for yourself how lucky we are to have a wonderful teacher like Jenny Ortez.
RWCopLady August 19, 2012 at 07:17 PM
Ditto on Nora's comment. Jenny, you sound like one of the few teachers that inspired me in high school. Those teachers are unforgettable. You are a role model and asset to Woodside High and the Latino community!
Nora August 19, 2012 at 09:55 PM
Amen, check your English grammar buddy!
Susana Ruspini August 21, 2012 at 10:22 PM
Susana Ruspini: I met Jenny when she came to the RSP Department at Woodside High School, where I was working, as a very young mother and high school graduate. I knew immediately that her potentials were enormous. She loved to work with kids, she was bright, self-disciplined, and she had her goals well set. She is proving herself beyond expectations. She is the kind of teacher that we need for our high school students. Go Jenny, we are all very proud of you.


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