Plaque dedicated in honor of Jill Kenyon, retired teacher at Jordan, Rock Island
ROCK ISLAND — “Good to be home.”
Those were Jill Kenyon’s first words at a ceremony to dedicate a plaque in her honor at Jordan Catholic School during Catholic Schools Week. It is estimated that she taught as many as 1,000 students during her 37 years as the gym teacher there before she retired last year.
“I’m blessed. It’s the best place to work . . . to begin and end my career.” — Jill Kenyon
Purchased by the Jordan Catholic School Booster Club with contributions from her fans, friends and the parents of former students, the plaque is mounted on the wall near the gym’s concession stand and one of the main entrances.
Principal Kelly McLaughlin recounted Kenyon’s accomplishments in physical education, which included adding indoor and outdoor activities and innovative athletic programs. Among them are ski lessons, bowling, and Kenyon dodgeball (still played). She also partnered with the Rock Island Fitness Activity Center to offer swimming to the students.
Kenyon’s impact on her students has been far reaching, according to McLaughlin.
Her words of encouragement are credited with inspiring students to positive teamwork, rules of competition and leadership in class, and to personal success later in life. Memories of lifelong lessons include how to manage stress, and instilling a work ethic and confidence in her students.
Kenyon was known to say to both staff and students in the hallways: “We’ve got this,” “Let faith guide you,” “It is not a problem,” “You can do this,” and “You are amazing.”
When asked how she felt about the recognition, Kenyon said it was “Surprising, all of it.”
The ceremony ended with a small reception for Jordan Catholic teachers, former co-workers, family and friends.
Looking back, Kenyon remembered that there was no gym when she came to the school in 1985. “There was an empty room under the church. (Father J. Eugene Kane) would say, ‘I hear you when I celebrate Mass,’” she said.
She taught the children to play “quiet games” and in time, “We built this gym.” The cornerstone for Farrell Hall was laid in 1987.
“I’m blessed,” Kenyon said. “It’s the best place to work . . . to begin and end my career.”