What's Your Education Story?

Putting money in the bank for college: One Indianapolis teacher’s call to action

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy
Katie Johnson at the Teacher Story Slam, April 19, 2018.

Indianapolis educator Katie Johnson has made it her mission to tell students not only that they can go to college, but that they can afford it, too.

Some of her families at KIPP Indy College Prep Middle School, she said, don’t even realize the opportunities they have to enroll in programs like 21st Century Scholars, a high school program that helps students from low-income backgrounds earn a full ride to a state university or college.

Johnson, a college counselor, was one of eight educators and students who participated in last week’s story slam sponsored by Chalkbeat, Teachers Lounge Indy, WFYI Public Media and the Indianapolis Public Library.

Here’s an excerpt of her story about how she and her colleagues are working to encourage students to prepare for college — academically and financially. It has been lightly edited for length and clarity:

“This is a call to action. So part of my role at my school is to, one, help our 8th graders find their best fit school.

Another piece is to help our kiddos learn about college. If you walk through our hallways, you will see pennants, you will see flags — each homeroom is named after a university. Every single grade level, K-8, goes on a college field lesson every year. So college is everywhere.

When I started working at this school, I was a gym teacher and I loved it. I was an athlete all in college, and it was just a great opportunity to teach all the kiddos what I’d been learning about taking care of my body and working out.

About three years ago, four years ago, I started the position I have now. And one thing I’ve noticed — has anyone heard of 21st Century Scholars? — is only 30 percent of my eighth graders were leaving my school signed up. And I’m a 21st Century Scholar, and so my mission was to make sure that our babies were signed up.

So since I’ve been in this role, we’ve been signing up 90 percent of our eighth-graders to leave our school signed up for that program.

And so I thought about, OK, If I can get 90 percent of our families signed up for 21st Century Scholars, how else can I get our kiddos and families thinking about the cost of college early?”

Check out the video below to hear the rest of Johnson’s story, where she goes on to explain the new initiative her school is taking on and how it’s already changing how her students think about life after high school.

You can find more stories from educators, students and parents here.


What's Your Education Story?

As the 2018 school year begins, join us for storytelling from Indianapolis educators

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy/Chalkbeat
Sarah TeKolste, right, and Lori Jenkins at a Teacher Story Slam, in April.

In partnership with Teachers Lounge Indy, Chalkbeat is hosting another teacher story slam this fall featuring educators from across the city.

Over the past couple of years, Chalkbeat has brought readers personal stories from teachers and students through the events. Some of our favorites touched on how a teacher won the trust of her most skeptical student, why another teacher decided to come out to his students, and one educator’s call to ramp up the number of students pursuing a college education.

The event, 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 13, is free and open to the public — please RSVP here.

Event details:

5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Thursday, Sept. 13, 2018
Tube Factory artspace
1125 Cruft St., Indianapolis, IN 46203
Get tickets here and find more on Facebook

What's Your Education Story?

Bodily fluids and belly buttons: How this Indianapolis principal embraces lessons learned the hard (and gross) way

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy
Christine Rembert at the Teacher Story Slam, April 19, 2018.

For Christine Rembert, principal at Francis W. Parker School 56 in Indianapolis Public Schools, education is the family business.

Her dad teaches chemistry to adults, and her mom is a retired high school English teacher. So it made sense that Rembert, too, would be an educator. As she has transitioned from a teacher to an administrator, she’s done a lot of learning — in fact, she considers herself not the person with all the answers, but the “lead learner” in her school.

And it hasn’t always been glamorous. Dealing with bodily fluids, for example, is a regular part of her day. As a new principal, she confronted that head-on in an anecdote she recounted in a recent story slam sponsored by Chalkbeat, Teachers Lounge Indy, WFYI Public Media, and the Indianapolis Public Library.

Here’s an excerpt of her story. It has been lightly edited for length and clarity:

The last story I have to tell happened in my first few months as a school administrator, and I’ve learned many things from this story. I was sitting at my desk and doing some work, and my behavior person came in.

That’s the person who’s kind of the bouncer in the school who manages all the naughty kids. So we had that person, and she came in, and she was a tall woman — over 6 feet tall. She looked down at my desk, and she said: Do you want me to tell you the story first?

And I, in all my brand-new administrator wisdom, said no. And she goes, well, I have a teacher and a kid, and we need to talk to you.

And I was like, OK come on in!

Well, note to self: When the behavior person says do you want me to tell you the story, you need to say yes right then.

Because the reason is you have to not laugh.

So the teacher came in, and she has a Clorox wipe, and she’s (frantically wiping her nose). And I was like, OK, that’s weird. She sat down, and the child came in, and she was kind of sad.

I proceeded to hear the story whereby the child had stuck her finger into her (wet) belly button and then held it up to the teacher’s nose and said: Smell my finger.

Public education is like living in a fraternity house.

Check out the video below to hear the rest of Rembert’s story.

You can find more stories from educators, students, and parents here.