Featured Colleague: Jen Katz’s Personal Journey With Weight Loss Ignited a Love for Her Current Career

Tuesday, May 18, 2021

By Claudia Zequeira

Jen Katz’s passion for her health and fitness career began when she went through a 60-pound weight loss journey in 2007 after having her third child and experiencing a layoff from her corporate job.

In all, the process took 15 months, but she learned much from it.

“I didn’t have anyone to help me, so there was a lot of trial and error, which is what made me want to learn more about how to truly be healthy and not just try fad diets or programs,” said Jen, teaching lab supervisor.

“I went back to school to learn how to educate others to live happier, healthier lives through physical education and the health sciences. My focus now is on making my classes accessible and beneficial for everyone and to educate our faculty, staff and students on the services available to them on campus.”

At the East Campus, and besides teaching courses such as yoga, kickboxing and First Aid/CPR under the Social Sciences Physical Education Division, Jen also manages the East Campus Fitness Center.

Pre-pandemic, she worked with staff to create schedules each semester, supported faculty who taught classes in the Fitness Center, made sure all equipment was clean and in working order and educated both staff and students on the proper use of equipment. Currently, she is working on plans for enhanced cleaning procedures as the College prepares for reopening. This fall, Jen is excited to teach face-to-face courses, hybrid and online classes as well as about the fact the fitness center will open to offer the students’ lab portion of their physical education courses.

Before joining Valencia, Jen worked as a project manager for a marketing firm and also taught fitness courses at large and small boutique gyms.

Being at Valencia, however, feels like home. Valencia, she said, is “less like a job and more like a family,” and she is most proud of all she has accomplished here since she started working as an adjunct instructor in 2012.

In that time, and while a Valencia employee, she earned a bachelor’s degree in kinesiology and exercise science, a master’s degree in exercise physiology and a doctorate degree in curriculum and instruction.

“I believe that being a student, while also being a professor, helped me to be more understanding of what our students are going through,” she said.

Jen is also pleased with how she and her team were able to transition to online work after last spring, when all our campuses closed due to the pandemic.

“A lot of people wondered how we could present physical education classes in a virtual format, but we made it happen,” she said. “In the process of filming content for my students, I also filmed and posted content for our faculty and staff to help them stay active even without access to our fitness center. I’ve reviewed hundreds — maybe even into the thousands now — of online exercise options for our students to make sure they have access to quality health and wellness materials from the comfort of their own homes.”

That same care she afforded her students and colleagues is also something she said has been reciprocated and is one of the reasons Jen enjoys working at the College.

“I worked in the corporate world for over a decade and never experienced the same care and concern for employees the way I have experienced it at Valencia,” she said. “Whether it’s my dean, my department chair or my colleagues in other departments, I feel like we all belong here.”

Her supervisor, Mark Collins, dean, social science and physical education, praised Jen for her work and disposition.

“Jen is one of the most fun and joyful people you will ever meet. The well of compassion and energy she has is truly amazing,” said Mark. “She has been such an integral part of our physical education team and has become a vital member of the division. If you want to talk fitness, health or just the joy of living, call Jen. And she has one of the coolest cars on East Campus. Did I mention she is a Steelers fan?”

At Valencia, Jen is most inspired by her students and by the people she has encountered here, particularly her department chair, Tammy Sabourin, professor, HH, fitness, PE, who encouraged her to purse advanced studies.

“It empowered me to see another woman that has a passion for helping her students to live healthier lives,” said Jen, who added that her students also inspire her every day.

“As someone who teaches our CPR and First Aid courses, many of my students have ambitions to go on to be in law enforcement, healthcare, firefighting and athletic training. To be able to work with so many students who have those goals of helping others is truly humbling,” Jen said.

She is also very connected to Valencia’s mission, which is to offer possibility to members of the community, including herself, as Jen is also a Valencia graduate.

“I, myself, was a low-income student when I attended and if it weren’t for that opportunity, I don’t know if I would have been able to continue my own journey,” she shared. “I know there are thousands of students who would say the same thing about their time at Valencia, including two of my children who have attended the College.”

When she’s not working, Jen loves cooking, baking, traveling and spending time with friends and family, which includes her three-year-old granddaughter. She is also creative and likes to take on manual projects.

“I would consider myself an avid DIY-er. I am constantly looking for things I can redo in my house on a budget, and fortunately my husband humors me,” she said. “We have installed wood stairs, painted everything, and I am most proud of our handmade custom farmhouse table that we built. Pinterest is a dangerous place for me.”

Know of someone doing great work at the College, who has been an employee for one year or more? Send the colleague’s name to us at The_Grove@valenciacollege.edu. He or she might be one of our featured colleagues, subject to supervisor’s approval.

2 Comments

  • Laura Skelton said:

    I'm so happy to see Jen highlighted! Jen is so kind and skilled at what she does! I had the pleasure of being able to collaborate with her through VSA and she made the Yoga session she facilitated very engaging for the staff. I have also seen her at work on East Campus and she makes the East gym a welcoming environment to students, faculty, and staff!

    AMTue, 18 May 2021 10:19:37 +0000Tue, 18 May 2021 10:19:37 +0000am21,10:19 am

    • Jen Katz said:

      Thank you, Laura! It's always a joy to work with you, and I look forward to seeing you again on campus in the near future!

      PMTue, 18 May 2021 16:45:45 +0000Tue, 18 May 2021 16:45:45 +0000pm21,4:45 pm

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