Natives and long-time Clear Lake residents can take it for granted. They find to easy to forget that not every town in Iowa has a beautiful lake at the end of Main Street.
Jenn Balk is a lake town girl who got away just long enough to fully appreciate the beauties of living in a lake town. A 2000 graduate of Okoboji High School, she couldn’t be happier living and teaching in Clear Lake.
After high school, Balk headed off to Brookings, S.D., where she earned a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education from South Dakota State University. From there, it was off to the Twin Cities for three years, where she worked and taught in a private preschool.
“I liked the Twin Cities area, but it was a little bit more fast paced, so I knew I liked the rural Iowa area — and I grew up in a lake town — so when this position came open I was pretty excited,” she says.
“Miss Jenn” as her students call her, is now in her fourth year teaching pre school for 4- and 5-year-olds at Clear Creek Elementary School. It’s a busy day, with a morning class that runs from 8:15 to 11:15 a.m. and then another group of students from 12:15 to 3:15 p.m.
“By the end of the day, I’m ready to just sit,” she says.
And still, she loves coming to school every day, and wants to make sure her students feel the same way.
“I love that coming to school is fun and exciting for them,” she says. “I think any day where I feel like I’ve reached at least one child is an awesome day.”
For Balk, teaching was a natural choice. Her mother was a long-time kindergarten teacher in Okoboji who was happy to pass on some of her classroom materials and displays to her daughter.
“When I first started, she was excited to get everything out of storage,” she explains.
Balk also did a number of practicums in her mother’s classroom, and is glad to have found a faculty and staff at Clear Lake that works so well together and fosters a collaborative environment.
“Everyone here is passionate about what they do,” she concludes.