The influence of teachers Bud and Jinny Jensen is evident even a decade after they retired.
After attending 10 to 15 Edina High School graduation parties each spring during their 30-plus-year teaching careers, the Jensens still spend summer weekends hopscotching to a few open houses.
Bud, a former English literature and public speaking teacher, and Jinny, a former Latin and Spanish teacher and current tutor, consider their invitations an honor.
At parties this past June, the Jensens’ influence was extolled—even if the details weren’t quite accurate— as well as communicated for the first time. One conversation included the flattering, though incorrect, assumption that Jinny founded Edina’s Latin program. In another discussion, a man told Jinny how Bud had changed his life.
Edina graduate Ann Carroll, a sports reporter with FSN North, wanted to increase awareness of the Jensens’ influence. They were “totally dedicated to the school, the teachers,” she says. “Everybody loved them. They went to so many graduation parties.”
The feeling is mutual. Bud 70, of Cumberland, Wis., arrived in Edina in 1966. Jinny Winter, 68, of Glencoe, Minn., came to Edina in 1967. They were set up at a bridge game by fellow teachers. They fell in love with each other, their careers and the schools.
“We loved it; we really had fun,” Jinny says. “When we see young teachers that come on and might bail after a semester and go someplace else, we shake our heads, we scratch our heads. How is that possible? Why didn’t they connect? Why wasn’t that a career?”
The Jensens’ careers included long nights correcting Latin quizzes and marking up English essays. Few words were spoken some nights, but they shared a purpose.
“We had it lucky,” Bud says. “With both of us teaching, we both understood what the other was doing.”
They also did more. Bud spoke at commencement ceremonies; Jinny would embark on trips to Italy with students.
One of Bud’s commencement messages drew from Roberto Benigni’s movie Life is Beautiful.
“I tried to indicate that life is a series of wonderful experiences,” Bud recalls. “Not all of them are going to be mountaintop experiences, but if you put them together … life is beautiful. That has always been my motto.”
More than 20 years ago, Bud spoke before the class of 1991 at the scholar’s banquet, where he accurately predicted what they would do 20 years later. Bud used a lesson from Jonathan Swift’s book Gulliver’s Travels, where Gulliver goes to the great academy of higher learning and “contrives a new method for building houses, by beginning at the roof and working downwards to the foundation.”
Bud used it as a critique of scholars who often think and rarely do.
“If you are going to build houses, build them to help people that don’t have homes,” Bud recalls telling the class of ’91.
At the 20-year reunion, the class of 38-year-olds raised $40,000 and built a Habitat Humanity house. Bud modestly brushes aside his role in this achievement, saying it’s merely coincidental.
Jinny’s impact included taking 11 student groups to Italy, a trip that changed some students’ expectations. At a recent grad party, parents kidded Jinny, saying, “Gee, we wish you would have gone to South Dakota for your class trips because now our kids want to go to Italy for a destination wedding.”
Jinny and Bud want to pass on the enjoyment and fulfillment they’ve known in a lifetime of teaching. Last year, they established the Bud and Jinny Jensen Scholarship at Hamline University, which will be awarded to a student pursuing high school teaching.
“What has become important to both of us is to try to do something to encourage the kids even when we are not in the classroom anymore,” Bud says. “We want kids to go on and to do well.”