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Inspiring Teacher: Jenny Linker, assistant professor of health, nutrition and exercise sciences

Jenny Linker is a former All-American rugby player who readily shares her passion for physical education with her students. Linker is a respected authority in her field, teaching physical education methods courses and advanced curriculum and methods in NDSU’s Leadership in Physical Education and Sport master’s degree program.

WHAT KINDS OF EXPERIENTIAL LEARNING OPPORTUNITIES DO YOU PROVIDE YOUR STUDENTS?

My students engage in a variety of hands-on active learning experiences throughout my courses, including peer-teaching, authentic project-based learning and participation in four service-learning projects. Students gain real-word experience serving as lead teachers in my NDSU Let’s Move in Homeschool program. The program provides 10 physical education lessons a semester to homeschool children in our community. 

Students also gain valuable experience as “Physical Activity Champions” while taking part in the Adopt-a-School program. During fall semester, student teams work cooperatively to help local elementary school staff advance their Comprehensive School Physical Activity Programs, while spring semester includes facilitating and hosting a communitywide family fun night.

HOW DID YOU DECIDE TO PURSUE YOUR PROFESSION?

I played collegiate rugby and after an unrelated injury post-graduation, I was contacted by a local college team searching for a new head coach. I never saw myself as a coach, only a player and thought it would be too hard to be on the sideline. It turned out to be such a great experience and fueled my desire to pursue a second bachelor’s degree in physical education teacher education. I taught four years at the middle school level and had a blast. 

College instructors from both my undergraduate and graduate programs encouraged me to pursue my doctorate and join higher education. I thought they were out of their minds-why would I leave a job I loved? What persuaded me was the opportunity to influence future teachers so that I could positively impact a greater number of K-12 children. Best. Decision. Ever.

WHAT DO YOU LIKE BEST ABOUT TEACHING?

Teaching fills my soul. I enjoy getting to know my students and watching their professional growth during the three to four years they are in our program. Even better is witnessing how confident they are as they venture out into their final student teaching semester. It’s a product of all their hard work and dedication as well as that of our program’s entire faculty.

WHAT HAS BEEN THE BEST MOMENT OF YOUR TEACHING CAREER SO FAR?

There have been many, but it certainly feels like winning the lottery every time one of our graduates is selected over other candidates for K-12 teaching positions. It’s terrific when our graduates go out and make a real difference at their schools or become leaders in our state. 

WAS THERE A TEACHER WHO INSPIRED YOU?

My dad was an industrial arts teacher at my high school. While I did not take his class, I certainly witnessed his dedication to teaching, commitment to serving others and how much he valued building relationships with students, colleagues and community partners. 

My high school physical education teacher and field hockey coach, Kathy Horrigan, also inspired me. I cannot recall a single time Kathy ever yelled at us or used negative language or tone. She was so passionate about her teaching and coaching, that I would have gone (or tried to go) through a brick wall for her had she asked. I want my students to see that same passion from me each day in the classroom.

Linker joined the NDSU faculty in 2011. She earned bachelor’s degrees at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst and Westfield State College, Massachusetts; her master’s degree in physical education from Bridgewater State College in Massachusetts; and her doctorate in kinesiology at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.


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