This year, Street Law is proud to present the 2022 Classroom Champion Award to Jen Reidel, a social studies teacher at Options High School in Bellingham, Washington. The award will be presented via a video to be released on May 2, 2022.
Each year Street Law honors an exceptional educator for their exemplary use of Street Law materials and pedagogy in their classroom. Educators are nominated in the fall, and the winner is selected by a committee of Street Law staff, board members, and former award winners.
This year’s winner, Jen Reidel, “has that ‘it’ factor, which is difficult to describe, but obvious when you are in her presence,” colleague Joe Wooding says. Jen has been a classroom teacher since 1996. Ever since attending the Supreme Court Summer Institute
in 1999, she has been integrating Street Law materials—predominantly Street Law’s extensive suite of Supreme Court case summaries—into her civics, law, and U.S. history classes.
Street Law materials—especially in her early years of her teaching with minimal resources—have formed the bread and butter of the curricular content Jen uses in her Civics and Law and Society classes. “Street Law case summaries help make complex legal ideas and concepts accessible through a narrative rooted in a historical moment,” Jen says. “Cases help remind students that the law has the power to intersect with and influence real people.”
In keeping with Street Law’s student-centered pedagogy, Jen’s classes are a lively affair. She finds it most effective to teach civics, law, and history by simulating real-life political processes. For example, her civics class includes a mock Constitutional Convention in which students assume roles of the founders and weigh difficult questions about how to create a new system of government from scratch. In her law and civics classes, she guides students through a bill-making simulation in which students research, write, and defend bills before a “Congress” of their peers.
To top it all off, Jen’s teaching is advancing equity and narrowing the civics achievement gap in her community. Options High School reaches students who require a non-traditional approach to learning, including a high population of special education students, those dealing with Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), and students identifying as LGBTQ+.
Outside of regular school hours, Jen ensures her students—as well as those in the surrounding community—are well-prepared to participate in our country’s political institutions. She convenes a project where students interview local leaders identified as community change agents, helping to establish dialogues between local political figures and young people.
Jen is also her school’s teacher-advisor for the Whatcom County Teen Court program. This is an innovative restorative justice program that provides local young people with an active role in the justice system. Under Jen’s tutelage, students from Options High School (and other Bellingham-area schools), receive hands-on experience within the justice system to decide on rehabilitation plans for local teens who have pled guilty to minor offenses.
Jen also supports civic education beyond her home community in Washington state. From 2019-20, she served as the Civics Teacher in Residence at the Library of Congress, working with the Library to curate and create primary source materials for civics teachers across the entire country.
For Jen Reidel’s outstanding work using Street Law materials and methods, Street Law is proud to present her with its 2022 Classroom Champion Award.