Washington State University alumna Jenny (Chapman) Rose embodies the tenacious Cougar spirit that ignites her passion as a teacher, role model to her three sons, and an activist for K-12 education. Although Jenny recently concluded eight years of service as president of the Spokane Education Association (SEA), her engagement in matters that impact public schools is stronger than ever.
Spirit and passion are the driving forces in Jenny’s life. Her personal and professional achievements have arisen from the experiences she enjoyed during her four years at WSU. She joined Chi Omega sorority her freshman year, participated in campus activities, never missed a home football or basketball game, and was selected for the women’s honorary service group, SPUR (Service, Pep, Unity, Rep), during her junior year. “I can still sing the SPUR song,” Jenny quipped. “’S’ is for Service…’P’ is for Pep…’U’ is for Unity….’R’ is for Rep.” She earned her degree in elementary education cum laude in June 1977.
After 40 years of leading a busy life, Jenny said it is time to give back to the institution where she achieved her dream of becoming a teacher. This past January, and for the first time, Jenny said, “Yes,” when responding to a Call-A-Coug request to support the College of Education Dean’s Fund for Excellence.
“When I received the call from Tiffany (the student-caller),” Jenny said, “I decided it was time to walk the walk. I want to help WSU recruit more teachers/educators to the profession—especially teachers of color. Our teaching force does not reflect the diversity of our students. Perhaps my small gift could help.”
Jenny’s gift also acknowledges the people who helped her succeed in her studies at WSU, including her professors in the College of Education and in particular, a teacher at Lewis and Clark High School in Spokane. Jenny graduated from LC in 1973. “I want to honor my high school homeroom teacher, Ms. Berend. When I was at WSU, she would send money every month to help me. Though I never thought of my family as poor, I knew my dad was scraping to help me,” Jenny said.
Richard Chapman, Jenny’s father, attended WSU on a basketball scholarship in the early 1950s but had to drop out due to family reasons. He went on to become a police officer for the City of Spokane, while her mother stayed home to help raise Jenny and her three siblings.
“My dad always talked about WSU,” Jenny said, “so it was naturally built into me that I would attend WSU as well. There was no other college even discussed. Plus, since I never had been away from home–the hour and a half drive (from Spokane) was close enough but also far enough.” Jenny said she is the only one in her immediate family to graduate from college, although her older brother attended WSU during his freshman year and her younger brother attended WSU for two years. Her older brother was a police officer in Wenatchee for 35 years and has since retired.
When Jenny graduated from WSU, there were very few openings for new teachers so she worked as a substitute teacher for Spokane Public Schools. The following year, 1978, she married her college sweetheart and moved to Dallas, Texas. Because her husband worked in the restaurant business, they also lived in Portland, Oregon, and Littleton, Colorado. The couple returned to Washington state in 1983 and settled in Spokane with their toddler son, David. “I stayed home being a mom,” Jenny said, “but I always ‘worked.’ Whether it was home parties or apartment managing–I always brought money home. I had twin boys, James and Thomas, in 1986. When my boys were older– I started looking for a teaching job.”
In 1994, Jenny was hired for a new program, “The Native Life Center,” in Spokane. Native American students from schools throughout the district would come to the Center after school. “We had tutoring, counseling, cultural arts, and all sorts of things. I was the only teacher. Our program actually won an award from the Department of Education. It was a grant program,” Jenny said, “so when the money went away two years later, the program went away too.”
Jenny went on to teach 5th grade at Garfield Elementary School where she remained for the next 13 years. She also taught 3rd, 4th, and 6th grades. “Garfield was and is a wonderful school with such caring adults, awesome parents, and great students,” she noted.
Teaching is a tough but rewarding career, she said. “You have to use every bell and whistle you have but the rewards are significant. To see that light bulb go on when they finally get it is unbelievable. My students gave me energy and they gave me their all. They challenged me when I needed to be challenged, and they were so accepting of others.”
She continued, “Believe it or not, my favorite time of the school year was during parent/teacher conferences. I loved meeting the parents and to this day, I have those same parents on my Facebook page along with some of my students who are now grown and have families of their own.”
While teaching at Garfield, Jenny served as the school’s representative at the monthly Spokane Education Association meetings. She was soon elected as a zone director, which provided the opportunity to serve on the SEA Executive Board. She attended local, state, and national conferences and participated in leadership training sessions–including one titled, “How to be Elected!” Heeding the advice gleaned from those trainings, she ran for a position on the Washington Education Association (WEA) board of directors—and won. She has served on the WEA Board for 16 years and was elected to the WEA Executive Committee for two years.
Jenny’s persistence in seeking election as a delegate to the National Education Association Rep Assembly paid off 15 years ago. She has attended the Assembly as an elected delegate every year since. The Assembly takes place the week of July 4th in various cities throughout the United States. “I gave up many 4th of July holidays with my family for something I truly have a passion for,” she said.
With all of the experience she gained, Jenny became confident enough to run for president of SEA and knew she would do a good job. She was elected in 2009 and re-elected four more times. Her recent bid for re-election was unsuccessful, so she returns to the classroom to teach this fall.
“I enjoy being an activist and advocating for public education,” she said. “I enjoy talking to our state legislators and trying to make a difference not only in educators’ lives but student lives as well. It is a win-win situation for me.”
Her accomplishments as SEA president range from successful contract negotiations that brought much-needed wage increases for teachers, paraeducators, secretaries, custodians, and nutrition service workers to providing opportunities for professional development and showing SEA members that there is strength in numbers. “I want members to be able to say: ‘My union has helped me grow into the best educator I can be, and my journey will never be complete because I am a lifelong learner! I am proud to be a member of SEA.’”
In the same way, Jenny is proud to be a role model for first-time donors to WSU—40 years after graduating. “It’s never too late,” she said. “Donate what you can truly give. Donate to honor yourself and the life journey you took after WSU.”