Making a difference in Education: Janna Dean '85

For Jana Dean ’85, a career in education traces its roots to her having great teachers. Jana has no problem recalling fond classroom memories from her days as a Cutthroat.

“I loved [teacher] Bill Smallwood’s ‘critter hunt’ most of all; and [teacher] Jim Cogan’s stories,” she remembered. “And my close friendships with Michelle McDonald and Kim Webster ’85 and long conversations about politics with Trevor Norris ’85; sleeping in a snow cave, shopping at Atkinsons’ on the family account for backpacking trips, and learning how to use the dark room. Most of all, though, I had great teachers, and they each had an impact on my personal and career path.”

After graduating from Community School, Jana earned her BA in liberal arts from The Evergreen State College in 1991. Three years later, she received her MEd from the Antioch New England Graduate School in New Hampshire. She dove headfirst into teaching, honing her skills with stints at three middle schools near Olympia.

“I went into teaching because I don’t like sitting still,” explained Janna, who has also worked as an interpretive naturalist and an artist-in-residence storyteller, among other jobs. “I am also interested in everything! I know how to ‘read a room’ for the emotions present and respond to what I feel. I also believe in community. If we can care for each other with love and compassion, we better work together so other species have a chance.”

Today, Jana is the lead teacher and program developer for the Jefferson Accelerated Math and Science Program at Jefferson Middle School, a public school in Olympia, Washington, where she has been since 2011. She developed Jefferson’s model for an integrated middle school math and science program.

Mother to daughter Naomi (18) and son Kasper (20), she also manages to keep busy outside of her classroom. She is currently one of two state finalists for the 2016 Presidential Award in Excellence in Math and Science Teaching, and she leads math professional development for the Olympia School District. She has published half-a-dozen articles through publisher Rethinking Schools. In 2007, she was invited to be a panelist at the United Nations-sponsored “Youth, Education, and Climate Change” in New York City. Outside of work, she can be found hula hooping, mountain biking, or spending time with friends.

Through it all, the joy of teaching remains as strong as ever. “I love seeing my students make mistakes, shake it off, and try again. I love seeing them support each other. I love seeing my students realize that they have the power and agency over their own perception and thinking. And, I love seeing them follow a path of inquiry.”