STR Resident: Brandon Lee
Where are you from?
What did you do before STR?
I had a business based on homeopathic therapy. My father had a stroke 3 years ago, and I needed a more stable job that allowed me to be home more often. While running my business I realized that I really enjoyed the teaching aspect of my old job: teaching people how to make products, how to create business plans, how to turn traditional, cultural, ancestral knowledge into a viable business that’s not exploitative and supports the community.
I also volunteered at Broadview Thomson before getting hired as a tutor. There I met someone from another STR Cohort who recommended the program.
How do you plan on bringing your experience as a person of color and native of the area into your classroom?
My mom is from Korea and my dad is descended from Robert E. Lee. Being mixed race, people always challenge your racial existence. I distinctly remember in high school reading a piece of Japanese literature where one of the characters had a long Japanese name, and instead of calling the character by his name, my teacher shortened the name to make it easier to pronounce. In contrast, this teacher didn’t shy away from saying other difficult to pronounce Western Civilization names like Thucydides. In doing so, the teacher showed an unconscious bias to one culture over another, which made me feel like certain cultures were more accepted than others. I hope to make each of my students feel like their culture, history, and story are valid and heard, and that they are all unique and should be celebrated. I want all of my students to feel fully accepted at school no matter what their background is or where they come from.
What made you choose STR?
I chose STR because it helps the kids who need support the most. My mom is here because of US militarism, like many other immigrants. US militarism and colonization have created a system of inequities, and so I like that at STR we are serving students in communities with the fewest resources. In Korean culture, education has been viewed as the only way to increase one’s social status and fight oppression, so I view it as an incredibly important tool to increasing equity.
How do you plan on incorporating equity and social justice into your classroom?
I really love the concept of positioning students as competent sense-makers. In this model the knowledge and understanding can come from the students. We can guide students to notice what they need to notice, to learn things through classroom discussions and activities instead of just telling them what they should know. This method creates a classroom that can really run itself. We can give students prompts and a direction, but in the end they can be active enough learners that they support the material and its learning. Using this method, students learn through observation, mimicking how humans learn in their everyday lives.
STR Grad: Jade King
Where are you from originally?
I am originally from Los Angeles, CA.
What did you do before coming to STR?
I was a Special Education Instructional Assistant working for Seattle Public Schools.
Why did you want to become a teacher?
Throughout my journey working in education, I have learned how important good teachers are to fighting the inequities in the education system. I want to become a teacher who can make a difference for students, specifically for students with disabilities. I want to find a way to help these students and their families feel included and be successful. Working with students gives me life and motivates me to work hard to be my best self for the students I work with.
What made you choose STR?
My boyfriend went through the program last year, so I was able to see firsthand what the program was like and the values STR works to instill in its students. More specifically, the idea that we can teach as a form of social justice really resonated with me. After really looking into the program, I decided it would be a great fit for me. What is unique to this program is that I am able to learn how to be a teacher while doing my student teaching at the same time. I really think that is valuable because I am able to directly implement what I am learning when I learn it.
What do you hope to learn from your mentor teacher?
My main hope is to learn how to balance being a special education teacher who meets the individual needs of my students with the demands of making sure my students are able to find success in the general education setting as well. It can be a challenge to know when to push students and when to be gentle with them. I am hoping to get clarity around what it takes to be an effective special education teacher who can set up the kind of learning environment my students need to navigate their disability and find success.
What ideas and plans do you have for fostering equity and inclusion in your classroom?
I believe building meaningful relationships with my students and making the classroom a community is the biggest way to foster equity and inclusion. Also, I want to make sure the instruction I give challenges students in the right ways. For me, high-quality instruction and strong relationships are the two most important ways to begin to fight back against the disadvantages students with disabilities face.
In what ways do you hope to impact your students this year?
My main goal this year is to establish a relationship with my students where we each learn from each other and have fun together. I want to be the kind of teachers who sends their students home feeling confident, valued and capable. Helping students believe in themselves and fight for themselves is the most rewarding part of this work.