By Terry Dean
If a parent of a Julian Middle School sixth-grader should get wind of the fact that one of their child's teachers sometimes stands on a desk during class, don't fret.
That would be Jen Galant, conducting one of her lively classroom lessons. Galant, in her fifth year at Julian, 416 S. Ridgeland where she teaches social sciences, language arts and reading, likes to keep her students engaged. And if that means doing cheers or chants with the kids, or briefly holding class atop a desk, she'll do it.
"I've never had our principal walk by my room while I was on a desk, but she wouldn't be surprised," Galant said.
That, of course, is not the only reason the Naperville native was named a nominee for the Golden Apple Award, which recognizes outstanding Chicago area teachers. Nominations are submitted anonymously by individuals in a teacher's district. The 10 award winners will be surprised in their classrooms later this spring. Galant learned of the honor during Christmas break.
"I was surprised and happy that someone would nominate me," she said.
Before joining Julian, Galant taught three years at a junior high school in New Lenox. Since arriving at the Oak Park middle school, she has become a "team leader," working with a small group of students across subjects with another teacher.
Teaching is something she's wanted to do since childhood.
"I loved playing school. It was my favorite game and I was always the teacher," she said. "I love helping kids, and I enjoyed babysitting. Every job I had before college always centered around kids. There was never a doubt in my mind that this is what I wanted to do."
But what's the deal with standing on desks?
Galant said she wants her classroom to be energetic. She remembers her third-grade teacher doing the same, employing role-playing and dances. That experience was an inspiration for her.
"I want to bring that same energy and enthusiasm into my classroom," she said. "I don't want to just stand up in front of the class and lecture. I want to keep the kids engaged, and you have to." Galant would like to use technology more in her classroom, which would open up a lot more activities.
Though teaching is her passion, it doesn't run in her family. Neither parent, both of whom are retired and living in another state, worked in classrooms. Her father was in sales and her mother did work in a school as support staff.
In the future, Galant can see herself as a reading specialist, helping to train teachers or working with smaller groups of kids. She does not see herself moving into an administrative position.
"I prefer to be in the classroom, working with kids," she said.