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South Valley Journal

Herriman teacher, coach changes lives

Feb 23, 2017 12:00PM ● By Tori LaRue

Lisa Jensen converses with students in the media center after school. Jensen was nominated for a national award in January. (Tori La Rue/City Journals)

By Tori La Rue | [email protected]
Lisa Jensen, a psychology teacher and coach at Herriman High School, was nominated for the National Life Group’s LifeChanger of the Year award. While there are more than 700 nominees, Jensen’s students said they’re convinced she should win.
“If they don’t pick her, they picked the wrong person,” said Abbie Champman, a senior who’s worked with Jensen through the school’s bullying prevention club called CURE.
Kennady Christensen agreed.
“I literally don’t know anyone more perfect for this nomination,” said Christensen, who has taken Jensen’s classes for the past two years. “She is the most influential person I have ever met.”
The LifeChanger winners will be announced in spring 2017 after a selection committee reviews all nominations.
Jensen, who has been lovingly dubbed “Co-J” by her students, is known for her packed schedule and big heart, according to the school’s media center specialist Crystal Hansen, who nominated Jensen for the award. When she’s not running between meetings with the CURE, prepping for psychology classes or leading girls volleyball or basketball practice, Jensen can be found talking one-on-one with her students, building relationships, Hansen said.
Last year, Christensen was struggling to find motivation to continue with school when Jensen challenged her to get her diploma and have more confidence in herself. The senior is now planning to graduate with the rest of her class in June.
“I had a lot of self-esteem issues, and she helped me see the good qualities that she saw in me,” Christensen said. “Even in the last year, her help has been completely life-changing. She’s helped give me a new motivation, a new confidence and a new love for life and everyone in it.”
Jensen describes herself as a “blunt,” “sarcastic” and “bold,” as a coach, but her players said they don’t see her that way.
Maddie Garrett, a senior volleyball player said she wanted to play college ball but wasn’t at the skill level she needed. With tips from Jensen, she upped her game and signed with Utah State University Eastern for fall 2017.
“She’ll always tell you what’s good about what you are doing, and then she will tell you what to fix,” said Emily Stanford, a junior who plays on Herriman’s volleyball and basketball teams. “She’ll just make it all positive instead of saying, ‘You suck you need to fix this.’”
Last year, the basketball team lost one of their friends and players when Cadee Conner was killed in a car crash on Mountain View Corridor. Jensen was a major support to the team by comparing the experience to when she lost her brother, several players said.
“It was good just to look at her and think, OK, how can someone who lost their brother—someone so close to them—come out like that?,” Stanford said. “I’ve looked at her as a role model, and I know I am going to come out of it because she did.”
Jensen said she’s humbled that she’s been able to help these girls become self-aware in school, sports and life. Though at the beginning of her college experience Jensen was opposed to the idea of becoming a teacher, she said it’s now hard to imagine her life any other way.
“I actually wanted to go into like fire-fighting, maybe even potential coast-guard stuff,” Jensen said. “I just wanted to do something big and bold and exhilarating and life-changing, and I never thought being a teacher would be how I would do that.”
Mid-degree, Jensen began talking with her academic adviser about alternative career options. She decided to coach, but her adviser notified her that she’d need to teach something. Upon finding out that she could teach psychology in high schools, Jensen said she was sold on the idea.
Jensen said it was “overwhelming” to think of the impact she must have had on students because they were willing to talk with the South Valley Journal and comment on her LifeChanger nominee page.
“By far, teaching has been the most rewarding thing I could have ever chosen—much more than I was  to get out of those other careers,” she said.