STR Graduate: Jasmine Nguon
What cohort were you in, and where do you currently teach?
I was in Cohort 5! I teach at Highland Park Elementary.
What grade do you teach?
I teach kindergarten.
What has your experience been like since STR?
For the most part, I felt prepared going into my first year of teaching. Learning from the ideas and resources from my mentor helped me think about how I wanted to set up my own classroom and teaching style. Having strong relationships with my students and families made my first year go as smoothly as it could have gone.
How many STR grads are currently at your school?
Including me, there are six STR grads at my school. It is exciting that at every grade level, there is an STR grad.
How do you try to include equity and social justice into your classroom?
My main goal is to build relationships with each student and family. Before my students can start learning, they need to be seen and heard as individuals. When I am able to have their trust, we can focus on other parts of themselves – their social and academic skills. It is also important for me to have open and frequent communication with my families, despite any barriers, so that we can work together as a team.
I enjoy reading books with my students that are representative of their experiences and others’ experiences, such as books dealing with identity and culture. My hope is that when they grow up, they will not take their circumstances as they are. I have no control over what happens once they leave my classroom, so in my year with them, I want them to think critically about the world around them, and consider what we can do to show more empathy and kindness towards others.
Growing up, my sisters and I often responded in English rather than Khmer with our parents. We lost a part of ourselves when we chose not to speak our home language. I teach my students about my language and culture because I want to encourage them to continue learning about their cultures and using their home languages. It is a special part of who they are that no one should ever take away.
What is a memory you have from your residency year?
There are so many memories with my cohort. We depended on each other for support and motivation through this journey of figuring out ourselves as individuals and as new educators. During a long week, I looked forward to seeing my cohort members during our weeknight class and feeling like we were in it together. We helped each other grow and I have full confidence that each one of them are doing amazing work in education.
If you had immediately gone into teaching without the STR experience, how do you think your first year teaching experience would have differed?
I would not be as strong of an educator. STR is pretty far ahead of other teaching programs with its focus on racial equity. On the first day of the residency, we talked about who we are as individuals and how that will affect us when we go into teaching. From visiting inmates at the Monroe Correctional Complex to thinking about how we can provide access for all students in a lesson, we were fortunate that our program pushed us to openly talk about the power that we have as educators (whether it is used positively or negatively), and the realities facing our students and their futures with the school-to-prison pipeline. Equity and access for students of color, students with special education and/or English Language Learner services, was always brought into the classes we were taking.
STR Resident: Blake Luley
Where are you from?
I was born in Texas and grew up in New Jersey
What did you do before STR?
I was a substitute teacher and music teacher. I subbed for SPS as an Instructional Assistant and emergency substitute. Because I didn’t have any experience it made me realize how much I needed a formal education to do the work properly. Subbing as an IA showed me how things operated in the classroom and allowed me to explore what it would be like to be a teacher.
What grade would you ideally teach?
Any grade 2-5
Where will you be teaching starting this fall?
Maple Elementary, where I had a chance to sub before.
What made you choose STR?
Its commitment to social justice.
How do you plan on incorporating equity and social justice into your classroom?
I’m excited to learn how to apply what we’ve learned this summer in the classroom, especially with regards to cultural competency.
Was there a situation remember doing while subbing, that could have benefitted from your learnings with STR? How would you approach the situation differently in the future now that you have learned more about teaching methods and practices?
I remember subbing one day in a Special Education classroom and having kids take turns reading 1 page at a time, which I’ve now learned is called a Round Robin. In the first week of STR I learned that this method can be detrimental to student’s learning because they will only be focusing on the page they are reading and gain little to no comprehension. It is also not responsive to students who aren’t as comfortable reading. I learned that even when well intentioned, some methods do not serve every student in an equitable way. I’m really grateful for this opportunity to unlearn things.
As a male teacher, what do you hope to bring to the classroom?
Hopefully the idea of deconstructing gender norms.