Jay W. Jensen
BiographyIrvington, New Jersey, USA
Jay W. Jensen was a legendary South Florida drama teacher. In a career which spanned over 5 decades, the Miami Beach High School drama instructor known as "The Teacher of The Stars," was an inspiration to hundreds, if not thousands of people. Jensen was born in Irvington, New Jersey. An only child, as a youth he developed a love of film and drama. In 1950, his family moved to St. Petersburg, Florida where he earned an Associate of Arts degree from St. Petersburg Community College. Read more... Education. Jay left Florida to briefly live in Havana, Cuba. Upon his return to Miami in 1954, he began teaching at Little River Junior High School. In 1957, after teaching for three years, Jay decided to "go to Hollywood and get discovered." In California, Jensen traveled to Los Angeles for an interview with movie producer Joe Pasternak. However, Pasternak told Jensen he was leaving the motion picture business, and Jay's dreams of a movie career were dashed. However, while in Hollywood, Jay worked as actress Carroll Baker's dance partner, and befriended actors Jim Backus and Bela Lugosi. After a failed interview with DesiLu Productions, Jay Jensen decided to return to Florida. In 1959, Jay was rehired by Miami-Dade County Public Schools, and began his 32 year career as a drama teacher at Miami Beach Senior High School. However, Jay didn't give up on his acting career. He acted in the South Florida produced "B" film, "Rehearsal For Sin," and had a few uncredited extra roles in such movies as Racing Fever (1964). Jay went on to earn a Master of Education Degree in Administration, Curriculum and Drama Education from the University of Miami. He directed over 300 hundred plays and musicals. His high school productions of the plays Hair, Viet Rock, and Gypsy, where both ground breaking and controversial for the times. Among his numerous students were movie actors Andy Garcia (The Godfather: Part III (1990)), Mickey Rourke (Year of the Dragon (1985))and Neal Gold (The Warriors (1979)), actress Annabelle Gurwitch (Dinner & a Movie (1996)), movie directors Brett Ratner (Rush Hour) and Sara Sackner (Class Act (2006)), rapper Luther "Luke" Campbell, sportscaster Roy Firestone, executive producer Heather Winters (Super Size Me (2004)), music composer Desmond Child, casting director Debra Zane (Dreamgirls (2006)), musician and record producer David Chesky, artist Romero Britto, and kick-boxer 'Sherman 'Big Train' Bergman'. Jay also worked with supermodel Nicol Taylor and coached Jennifer Fox in Gypsy. Jensen was a long-time friend of award winning writer Tennessee Williams, actor Hurd Hatfield and actress Carol Baker. In 2001, Jensen was the casting director for the Mexican production of, "I Never Saw Another Butterfly." Contrary to various reports. Jensen received numerous awards during his life. He served as a regional director for the National Thespian Society, he hosted conferences before the Florida State Thespian Festival, and was also a Carbonell voter in South Florida. He was one of South Florida's leading community philanthropists. Jay donated over 4 million dollars to such institutes as the University of Miami's Theater Arts Department, the School of Education, the Lowe Art Museum, the Ring Theater, and the Peterson Schools in Mexico. In the 2006, Jay W. Jensen returned to the silver screen in the movie, Class Act (2006). Class Act (2006) was an awarded winning film about Jensen's inspirational teaching career, and he devotion to the arts. In July 2006, Jensen discovered he had prostate cancer. Though seriously ill, Jensen continued to work. He appeared numerous times on PBS Television asking for public donations and talking about his entertainment career. His last artistic discovery was actor Steven Brack. However, his illness quickly progressed; after a valiant battle, he passed away on Saturday, February 17, 2007 in Coral Gables, Florida.