By Dan Bechtold
Growing up in Winner, Jimmi Watts always had a passion for teaching.
As a first grader, Watts had Jo Haffield as a teacher. The first grade teacher so inspired Watts that even in first grade the student made a vow to become a teacher. That promise carried over to high school. When Haffield was an elementary counselor she worked with the Character Counts program and Watts had the opportunity to work with elementary youths.
Now, Watts is teaching kindergarten students in Omaha, Neb., and is part of a program known as Math Studio in the Omaha Public Schools.
Watts, daughter of Rusty and Penny Heenan of Winner, graduated from Winner High School in 1998. In 2003, she received her degree in in elementary and special education from the University of South Dakota. In 2006, Watts earned a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction. In 2010, Watts received a elementary math specialist degree.
She teaches in the Belle Ryan School in Omaha and has 21 students in kindergarten. In that class, the students speak seven different languages.
Watts is taking part in a process called Math Studio, a model classroom that provides professional development for teachers, coaches and administrators. It’s a small piece of a $5.5 million grant to bolster math instruction in the Omaha Public Schools from the Sherwood and Lozier Foundations.