Teacher Janine Terstenyak

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Teacher Janine Terntenyak

As we acknowledge frontrunners in the educational development of our youth, let us make a way to recognize another educator in the person of Janine Terstenyak, a teacher in the subjects as Math, Reading, Writing, Communication, Social Studies, Science, Health, Speaking, AND Listening.

Before we proceed in getting to know MS Terstenyak better, please note the last subject she teaches is something I seriously feel a school curriculum should truly focus on LISTENING. You will all agree that if this subject were not only taught in our own homes but was seriously a “subject” in our daily classroom activity, our lives would be better! I, therefore, conclude that Janine’s success in teaching her students to listen and learn well would produce not only diligent students but better adults.

Janine always knew she wanted to be a teacher as she took the role of “the teacher” with her playmates in their youth; She admits that she was inspired by her youthful happenstances with the faculty during her elementary, specifically with then Miss Leonida Quinto, and in Angeles City National Trade School during high school with Miss Rennie Gonzales. Janine wanted to acknowledge the very people responsible for her aspirations in education as a profession, aside, of course, the support of her parents – mother Ellaine was in the BPO Industry within the Credit and Collections department, and father Lenin Sangalang, a barber, including the grandmother who she claims to be the ‘favorite apo’. She is among bright siblings namely Jellenie, Julie Anne, John Lennien, James Lennin, Joseph, Jaymee Llaine.

Born August 6, 1990, Janine is an Intermediate Autism Teacher at Nate Mack Elementary School. She earned her Bachelor of Elementary Education Major in Special Education/ Batch of 2010 at the Angeles University Foundation. She taught for 2 years at the L’Altra Montessori School, a private school, after which she mounted up 13 years of instructional experience, of which 8 years of in the Philippines at Lourdes Northwest Elementary School and 5 years in the Clark County School District. Janine applied as a ‘J1 culture exchange teacher’ in 2018. She was among the lucky 106 Filipino teachers that embarked on a new journey here in Las Vegas Nevada to teach and to learn. Hence, she has pursued further studies to hold a master’s degree in educational management.

Allow me to facilitate Janine’s beautiful realization of achieving her aspirations as I asked her to narrate her story in her own words:

“I was a working student in college, and I had to balance studying and working, ensuring I maintained good grades to qualify for every semester. There were days when I only had enough money for transportation and days when I needed to borrow from friends. Fortunately, I was able to receive scholarships that paved the way to my bachelor’s degree. 

As a special education teacher managing autistic students with high special needs, I must resort to unique means to manage challenging behaviors, because they cannot communicate their wants and needs. Finding and teaching a shift in behavior is a disconcerting process yet fulfilling at the same time when I succeed in my intentions to pacify the students. It always gets worse before it gets better in our classroom at times, but I must see the intensity of the behavior so I can help address it effectively.

It has been a roller coaster ride; it is not easy! Whenever I get so stressed out, my classroom setup changes the next day. I learned a lot of things: calming (myself & my students) with strategies, teaching, collecting data, and communicating effectively. My class was always a great practice of patience and perseverance, but my love for what I do made it possible to create a culture of success in my classroom. Success stories now and then drive my motivation for teaching. I witnessed kids start communicating, rocking their independent tasks, increasing self-control, and exceeding their IEP (Individualized Education Plan) goals. But the hardest challenge was being away from my family. I moved to the US to better myself and to provide for my family. But I must fight homesickness every single day. 

Students’ growth kept me going. I feel fulfilled supporting students to help them demonstrate their potential. We celebrate incremental growth, and together we learn. I love the community we build in the classroom. Success stories from increasing communication skills to learning replacement behaviors; these are tremendous features to celebrate. Connecting with students is a special skill that will make you feel fulfilled as a teacher. In my experience, the students with the most “unique” and challenging child have taught me effective strategies. One must be open to learning new things and collaborate with other teachers, and professionals. I will never forget seeing my nonverbal students communicate their wants and needs effectively through pictures or speech-generating devices. Also, watching my physically aggressive student ask for a break when things are overwhelming instead of throwing a fit warms my heart. 

I remember in 2018, I gave a welcome-to-the-school-year phone call to the families of my students. Shortly after, my admin got calls from the families; they were overly concerned that the new teacher is a Filipino with a thick accent. They questioned my ability before even starting the class. My amazing principal just told them that it was unfair to comment based on a brief phone call. She assured them that I am an amazing teacher. Now, my principal kept this information from me. I learned about it because, after a month, the parents sent me an apology letter. They apologized and said, “You are the best thing that ever happened to my child… It is only the start of the school year, but my child is already making so much progress.”

What helped Janine get through the challenges is “Having a teachable mindset,” she says. She said she learns from all the experiences she faces and focuses on improving herself. She also emphasizes being kind to oneself by celebrating every achievement, trying not to be so hard on yourself, and not taking things too personally.

Janine is one of the Top 10 Most Outstanding Fil-Am Teachers of Nevada 2022, Awardee at the Women’s History Month 2023; she also indulges in community projects by donating to Brigada Eskwela projects in the Philippines. I create DonorChoose projects to provide materials that would impact student lives. I advocate for autism acceptance in our community.

When asked how Janine would like to close and conclude her feature, she stated “I wish to say that my husband Brian Terstenyak, has been instrumental in my going through my daily challenges and I want to tell the world how I appreciate him too. He has always been supportive of me and lets me vent out – especially when I just came from a very “demanding” situation in class; the ‘fulfillment’ in successfully achieving to pacify my students with special needs is gratified by his comforting embrace.