Every year, students in Jennifer Longworth’s second-grade class could count on a handmade gift at the holidays.
The boys received stocking hats, while the girls got scarves. Longworth spent the entire year knitting up to 30 gifts.
The items were a point of pride among her past students, who wore the hats and scarves for years after receiving them.
Southwest Elementary School Principal Beth Guilfoy thought that extraordinary generosity to her students helps illustrate the kind of person that Longworth was.
Longworth, 36, and her husband, Dion, 34, were killed when their southside home exploded Saturday night.
“Words cannot express the emotions going around our school right now. This tragedy hits home in more ways than one,” Guilfoy said.
Longworth had a reputation for personal attention for all of her students, taking whatever time necessary to make each one feel special. Her efforts, such as the scarves and hats she made, were an inspiration to the entire Southwest staff and anyone else who knew Longworth, Guilfoy said.
“I can’t imagine how much time it took her. She’s definitely one that always went above and beyond. Always,” Guilfoy said.
Longworth had taught at Southwest for her entire 12-year professional career. She came to the school as an aide in 1998 then joined the staff full time at the start of the school year in 1999.
She was known for being reliable, Guilfoy said. One of her proudest moments came last year when she made it through the entire year without missing a day of school.
Longworth served on the parent-teacher organization board as a teacher representative for the past two years. She helped Southwest develop a schoolwide positive behavior system to make the school more inclusive and reduce problems such as bullying and tardiness.
She and her husband were avid Indianapolis Colts fans, and she wore her jerseys, sweatshirts and other gear throughout football season to show her spirit, Guilfoy said.
One of her favorite hobbies was crafting, Guilfoy said. Her classroom was decorated with unique creations, posters and individualized decorations for student desks.
She met with a group of retired teachers as part of a crafting club, either making cards or scrapbooking.
Longworth recently had discovered the website Pinterest, where she could find unique ideas to help teach students to count money, a program for an automatic seating chart, and a way to use newspapers to teach personal space.
“She was always seeking out ways to reach her kids. She was one of those teachers we could put tough kids in her class, and she would be able to work with those kids. We could always rely on her for that kind of help and mentorship,” Guilfoy said.