Jennifer Milne spent her career shaping students in Jeff City, and she’s continuing that today.
I thought I had died and gone into heaven,” recalled Jennifer Milne as she described how education became the core of her being. From the moment her grandfather refurbished old desks and set up a chalkboard for her at the tender age of five, Milne knew she would be a teacher.
Milne’s career began in 1972 at Simonsen. In the years that followed, she racked up an impressive tenure with Jefferson City Public Schools, teaching at both the middle school and high school levels before retiring from the Jefferson City Academic Center, where she focused on English and language arts. Along the way, she also taught a stint at Lincoln University and even a year of preschool.
Harboring a personal desire to get through to each student, Milne says she combined art and music into her classroom regularly.
“You can bring [students] all together with art and music,” she says. “It will make what you are reading make so much sense.” From high tea to live Shakespearean plays, the classroom was always lively when Milne was teaching.
Her strategy proved successful. Once, when a former student came back to school, Milne received a message on a small slip of paper: “Thanks for being the only teacher I ever had that thought I was capable of anything.”
Milne brought the now-framed note to the last interview of her career to answer the question of her teaching philosophy.
“I know the difference teachers can make,” she replied.
The feelings were mutual, and her students were there when she needed them most. When her only son passed away suddenly the day Milne was moving to a new home, her students and their families arrived the next day, packed up her entire old home in the pouring rain, and moved it to her new home.
“Can you believe that?” Milne asked, recalling the moment. “It’s just more than amazing.”
In 2011, Jefferson City Magazine recognized her as part of its first CITY’s Best class as “Best Local Educator,” and she hasn’t rested on her laurels. Instead, she continues teaching in a different way. Today, Milne spends her time at the Jefferson City Museum of Modern Art on High Street. When owner Rich Howerton offered tours to students at JCAC, he jumped on the opportunity to have Milne join his staff.
“I realized this was a way I could keep teaching,” Milne remarked. As a docent, she shares artwork collected there with the community she has called home her whole life.
“The paintings represent men who overcame adversity and thrived in their community,” she noted. “The museum represents Jefferson City.”
Milne married her husband, Edwin, in 1983, and they raised four children together.
“I was very fortunate that my husband was a patient man who supported me in my teaching goals, what I wanted to do, and when I wanted to help someone,” Milne says.
The love of education also helped her raise one of her daughters who has special needs. They share time in a book club, and her daughter comes to work with Milne regularly.
“How lucky am I that reading is one thing she is capable of doing and loves so much? What a gift to be able to share that,” Milne says.
In her free time, Milne enjoys spending time with her grandchildren, taking them to plays and musicals. She is still an avid reader, a Jefferson City history lover, and substitute teacher — “but only at JCAC!” she proudly exclaims.
“I’ve had an amazing run, and I hope I’m still running for a little longer.”
“Thanks for being the only teacher I ever had that thought I was capable of anything.”— Erin S., former student