• Jolie Welner is Brookwood Forest Elementary School's 2020-2021 Teacher of the Year.

    Jan. 11, 2021 — Jolie Welner chose to become an educator because of her experience as a student. Growing up in Greenville, Ohio, she had a teacher in first and fifth grade who showed her the difference education can make in a person’s life.

    “I just had wonderful memories of her, and she just made sure that every day we came to school excited to learn,” Welner said, “so I knew I wanted to work with students.”

    Welner has helmed a classroom for the last 22 years as an elementary school teacher. She has taught three different grade levels in five different states, and has spent the past five years teaching fifth grade at Brookwood Forest Elementary.

    Welner’s colleagues selected her as the school’s 2020-2021 Teacher of the Year.

    “I was completely surprised and so very humbled because I was chosen by my peers, so that just means so much more to know that my peers felt that I deserved this award,” Welner said. “I honestly feel like any teacher at Brookwood Forest could earn this award because everybody works so hard, especially in these challenging times.”

    Welner holds a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Cedarville University in Ohio and began her teaching career in her hometown.

    She then taught in Maine, Oklahoma, and Massachusetts before moving to Birmingham when her husband, Rob, landed a research and teaching position at UAB.

    Welner came to Brookwood Forest as a long-term substitute during the second semester of the 2015-2016 school year. It didn’t take long for those around her to recognize her excellence.

    “By the end of the first day of Jolie being here, we had talked to her about a more permanent position,” BWF Principal Nathan Pitner said. “Teachers just kept coming to us and telling us how amazing she was, and kids were responding…we knew from day one what a special person she was just in terms of character.”

    Welner taught science her first two years at Brookwood Forest and is now in her third year teaching math. As someone who struggled with the subject as a young student, she enjoys helping her pupils overcome challenges and master new material.

    “To see them get excited about learning math is what’s exciting for me,” Welner said. “That’s what I love most about my job, is seeing students who struggle along the way finally get it and then be able to apply that information.”

    Pitner recalls Welner initially expressing hesitation about transitioning from science to math. Over the past couple of years, however, he has seen her work diligently at her craft and grow into the role.

    Now, she is thriving.

    “I just can’t tell you what it’s meant to us to see her success, because Jolie really set about proving us right, that she could be special in that position and be an incredible asset to the school,” Pitner said.

    Welner credits her success to those who have invested in her throughout her career. She draws from her time at other schools to create the best possible learning experience, and outcome, for her students.

    "When I heard that I was Teacher of the Year, it really made me think about all those people and all the places that I’ve taught and how I’ve taken the best of those places and brought them here to what I do today,” Welner said. “I don’t feel like this award is a reflection of me. I feel like it’s a reflection of the journey I’ve been on and all those people that took time to invest in me.” 

    Teacher of the Year Overview

    Name: Jolie Welner

    Subject: 5th Grade Math

    Years at Brookwood Forest: 5

    Fun Fact: Welner is a diehard Ohio State University fan whose classroom is dotted with Buckeyes memorabilia. A baseball enthusiast, she also aspires to visit every Major League Baseball stadium. She has been to 22 so far.