Jennifer Armstrong is a huge Flyers fan, but when Gritty showed up this spring at her classroom at Owen J. Roberts Middle School in Pottstown, she wasn’t quite sure what was happening. As it turned out, the mascot was there to inform Armstrong she’d been selected as a national finalist for the NHL/NHLPA Future Goals’ Most Valuable Teacher.

“I found out by Gritty pounding on my classroom door to let me know, and it was one of the best teaching days I ever had,” said Armstrong, who teaches technology and science to seventh- and eighth-graders. “He pounded so loud that the classroom above me didn’t know what was going on.”

Armstrong, who attended Roberts Middle School as a student and has been teaching in the district for more than a decade, was recently awarded $10,000 from NHL partner SAP to invest in new tech devices for her classroom. She was one of 36 U.S. teachers included in the Most Valuable Teacher program, and one of three finalists chosen during a public voting period.

Jennifer Armstrong (Flyers jersey) with her students at Owen J. Roberts Middle School.
Philadelphia Flyers
Jennifer Armstrong (Flyers jersey) with her students at Owen J. Roberts Middle School.

Several weeks after the March classroom visit from Gritty and former Flyer Bob Kelly, Armstrong received her prize during a virtual ceremony for her and the two other finalists. (The overall winner was Joan Kilban, a Boston Bruins fan from Weymouth, Mass., and a fifth-grade teacher, who earned the top $30,000 prize for new classroom tech devices.) Flyers forward James van Riemsdyk participated in the ceremony to present Armstrong with her award.

“Jennifer is a true role model, making the lives of so many in the Pottstown community better right now,” van Riemsdyk said in a statement. “My brothers and I weren’t allowed to play sports if we weren’t taking care of business at school first – math was my favorite subject; it came naturally to me. STEM education is more important than ever right now, and knowing that Jennifer is continuing to help with these kids’ educational journey is truly inspiring.”

The Future Goals program includes two online resources: Hockey Scholar – an interactive hockey-themed STEM curriculum for middle- and elementary-school students, and Healthier Me – a program that provides elementary students the tools they need to make healthy decisions.

“I have been using Future Goals hockey program for a few years when I heard of it, and I teach STEM concepts and love ice hockey and the Flyers,” Armstrong said. “For middle school students, they are special, and anytime you can find a way to make a connection to real life they become more engaged.”