Each nominee for the Christa McAuliffe Prize for Courage and Excellence in Education is asked to submit their “philosophy of education.” Cheyenne Janssen opened hers with a quote that motivates her every day to develop students into world changers: “Education is the most powerful weapon for changing the world.” Those words from Nelson Mandela have special meaning for Janssen, a social studies teacher at Lincoln Northeast High School.
Janssen says she wants her students to do well academically and to be life-long learners, but mostly she wants them to use their knowledge to change the world. “It’s my passion to create students that understand that life is much bigger than them, and who take an active role to stand for what they believe, to take the knowledge learned in geography, civics, U.S. history and government and apply it—to create students who become adults who exemplify courage and excellence.”
An example of how Janssen gets her students engaged in the community comes from Chapter 25, a non-profit that helps feed the hungry locally, nationally and internationally. Executive Director Becky Snedeker spoke to one of Janssen’s classes about her organization, but it didn’t end with a PowerPoint. With Janssen’s support and guidance, the students raised funds to package and distribute food globally.
“For Cheyenne, it was not enough for her students to simply learn—she wanted them to react,” said Snedeker. “A great teacher enthusiastically takes on the challenge to expand that knowledge to a classroom far bigger than four walls.”
I went into teaching to change the lives of kids. I went into teaching to create world changers. I went into the teaching profession because I am passionate about people, especially young people, and the world in which we live.