Name a job, and Jennifer Sterk probably has had it. Her last job before becoming an educator: a crane operator at North American Stainless in Carroll County, Ky.
“I’ve worked every job you could imagine,” said Sterk, who is a math teacher at Scottsburg High School.
Before becoming a teacher, Sterk was the only woman in a group of 20 NAS employees to travel to Spain to assist with the expansion of the stainless steel plant in Ponferrada, León. The factory is one of the top three stainless steel producing facilities in the world. Sterk lived and worked in Spain for three months.
“I liked [my job],” Sterk said. “I was a big overhead beam crane operator.”
Sterk’s three-month residency further strengthened her Spanish-speaking skills. She took Spanish in high school and college, and she still uses Spanish in her classroom.
“I speak Spanish in the classroom all the time,” Sterk said.
Throughout Sterk’s life, from growing up in Wyoming to currently living on a farm in southern Indiana, she found one profession that she felt called to — teaching.
“My teachers were the strongest influence in my life above else,” Sterk said.
Before being a teacher, Sterk had a humbling experience in mathematics — she failed a math remediation exam. From that point, she turned that failure into an “A” in the class. She became a math tutor for other struggling students. It propelled her to become a math teacher for those who feel math is not their favorite subject.
“I became a math teacher for people who say they hate math or can’t do math,” Sterk said.
Since those early beginnings, Sterk earned her master’s degree and completed 15 hours of graduate work in mathematics with a minor in psychology. At one point, she was an adjunct professor at a nearby college. She also taught high school classes in Kentucky and Indiana before coming to SHS this year.
“The kids were always great, and the chance to help so many students,” Sterk said was her favorite part of her job as a teacher. “It’s not just teaching them math.”
Outside of the workplace, Sterk lives on a 55-acre horse farm with six horses, three dogs, and three cats.
“We’ve always had a farm. I grew up in Wyoming with horses. It’s who I am,” Sterk said.
Sterk loves animals and devoted her lifestyle to vegetarianism. She also participates in half and full marathons and in IRONMAN competitions.
“In college, I learned what vegetarianism was. I am about 95 percent vegan,” Sterk said. “I started IRONMAN to see if I could do it. It makes me feel a sense of accomplishment.”
At home, Sterk and her husband are foster parents. They adopted one child, who is 3-years-old, and are foster parents to another child, who is an infant. They hope to adopt the child they are fostering.
“We decided to start our family with adopted children,” Sterk said.
Through it all, Sterk has learned a key lesson from her life experiences.
“It’s taught me to be extremely empathetic. Your story isn’t always what you assume it is,” Sterk said. “I’m happy to be at Scottsburg. The kids are great.”
At Scott County School District 2, Sterk’s story is our story. Your story matters. You matter.