There’s something special about a small town that can make it almost impossible for one to consider leaving, or to stay away for too long. Small towns can be found all across the country, off highways and nestled along rivers, each embodying their own charm and qualities that make them unique. Ottawa Elementary Alum and Special Education Secretary Jenny Bergeson believes that Ottawa is one of those special places.
Aside from the brief time she lived in Ransom, she said, “I’ve lived in Ottawa most of my life.” Jenny loves the social possibilities offered through local happenings like the Kris Kringle market and the summer concerts in the park, she enjoys all the friendly people she encounters on walks with her dogs or doing a little shopping downtown, and the fellowship at Crossbridge Community Church. “I’m glad I live in Ottawa,” she said.
The mother of three sons, Jenny said her boys all had the benefit of having the experience of attending Ottawa Elementary Schools. Jenny’s experience with the Special Education programs didn’t begin when she took the job as the Special Education secretary, but rather as a parent when her youngest son was in the Special Ed preschool. “He’s done a wonderful job,” she beamed, “He’s working at Morris Hospital [in] technology administration. I’m so proud of him. And I do think it all started out here with Ottawa Elementary. It really helped him.”
Jenny has been the secretary for the Special Education department for 22 years and said she loves seeing the success stories of the other students who come through the program. One particular student success story, that of Special Education teacher Michelle Lakan, has turned into a chance opportunity for Jenny to work alongside a former student. “I remember when she was here [as a student], and those are the wonderful stories I love to hear and see people who do go make it. It’s just phenomenal,” she said.
Jenny shows true compassion and empathy in wanting the best for the children in her community. “Children are innocent,” she said, “and that’s what I love.” Being a part of helping children to learn acceptance of their peers and encouraging them not to focus on one another’s differences is very important to her. “I want everyone to enjoy life. Life is short, and I think it’s important to live life to the fullest,” she said.
Looking back on her sons’ childhoods, she realizes just how fast life can go. If given the opportunity to have a conversation with her younger self, and offer advice, she said it would be, “Don’t worry about what other people think. Just be you, trust in the Lord, and you’ll get through it.” Things aren’t always as bad as they may seem at the time, she said, and it’s important to remember to be yourself and love yourself. Jenny feels that, within the community of Ottawa, people care about each other and that is one of the most precious gifts a community can offer.
I want everyone to enjoy life. Life is short, and I think it’s important to live life to the fullest.