What's Your Education Story?

How this Indianapolis high school teacher won the trust of her most skeptical student

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy
Sarah TeKolste, right, and Lori Jenkins at the Teacher Story Slam, April 19, 2018.

To say that Sarah TeKolste and her student, Lori Jenkins, started off on the wrong foot would be an understatement.

New to teaching, TeKolste had high hopes for her Spanish class at Emmerich Manual High School, but she was met with sullen students who missed their former teacher. TeKolste wanted to forge a connection with Jenkins and her friends, who sat each day in the back of the class making their displeasure with her teaching blatantly obvious.

But TeKolste didn’t give up — on teaching Spanish or trying to reach Jenkins, who was dealing with personal issues that made school the least of her worries. Now, years later, both agree the tears, exasperation, and efforts were worth it. The two have grown so close, in fact, that Jenkins made TeKolste the godmother of her daughter.

TeKolste and Jenkins were two of eight educators and students who participated in a recent story slam sponsored by Chalkbeat, Teachers Lounge Indy, WFYI Public Media, and the Indianapolis Public Library.

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

Sarah TeKolste: Aug. 4, It’s the first day of my first year as a teacher. I basically meticulously tailored my resume for the past five years for this moment where I’ll become a Spanish teacher for Teach For America.

And I’ve done all these ridiculous things like make this classroom management system that’s very detailed, and I’d made this classroom vision, and I think I’m really ready for what I’m getting myself into. I’m starting at Emmerich Manual High School.

I spent the summer getting prepared, and I’m basically an overly caffeinated nervous wreck.

On the first day of school, about 50 percent of my students come into my classroom, and they are just royally pissed that they don’t have Ms. Brito as their Spanish teacher anymore. That’s probably my first clue that things might not go super smoothly that semester.

Lori Jenkins: It was my senior year and I wasn’t very thrilled because last year we were informed that there were going to be a lot of changes in our staff and faculty and policy.

And as much as I hate to admit it, I had issues with change because a lot of my life has been constant change, and I had no control over it. Due to financial issues at home with my family, and my hormones and emotions were through the roof. I was just going through a lot at the time. But the only place that I had hope for solace was Ms. Brito’s class.

And when I arrived to Spanish class, there was no Brito. Ms. TeKolste’s upbeat smile, her happiness, it irritated my soul. My safe haven was taken from me, and I had to find it somewhere else, in someone or something else.

Check out the video below to hear the rest of TeKolste and Jenkins’ story.

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

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.

 

What's Your Education Story?

Her motto was ‘There’s no crying in teaching’ … until she actually became a teacher

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy
Allissa Impink at the Teacher Story Slam, April 19, 2018.

Allissa Impink started her teaching career determined to make a difference.

As a Teach For America corps member, she headed into her first job as a special education teacher in 2015. A former social worker, Impink had a strong background helping children and witnessing tough situations. She was prepared, she thought.

But becoming a teacher and facing the realities of leading a classroom challenged her in ways she couldn’t have imagined.

Impink, now a teacher at Cold Spring School in Indianapolis Public Schools, was one of eight educators and students who participated 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 about how she made her transition into teaching and what she faced in her first year. It has been lightly edited for length and clarity:

In 1992, in my opinion, one of the greatest movies of all time came out — “A League of Their Own,” starring Tom Hanks and Geena Davis. When I quickly set the scene for you, Tom Hanks, who stars as Jimmy Dugan, is yelling at one of his female players, who made multiple, multiple mistakes throughout the game. He yells to her, “Are you crying? Are you crying? There’s no crying in baseball!”

Well, there’s no crying in teaching.

I was an English major in college, and it was my goal to become an English teacher upon graduation. However, due to college athletics, I was unable to realize that goal of obtaining my teaching license through the School of Education route. So in 2006 upon graduation from college, I interviewed for Teach For America. I was onto my third and final interview round, but apparently crying during an interview is not the best way to show empathy.

“Dear Allissa, we regret to inform you that you have not been selected to join the 2006 corps.”

So change of plans — social work. I was a social worker at the Department of Child Services for eight years. The typical tenure of DCS social workers directly out of college was six months. I’ve done my best to fight off the secondary trauma, and sleepless nights, and the politics of all of it.

Are we really doing what’s best for children, I would ask myself. Are we really keeping kids safe? Does the administration know what we really are going through? Have they ever performed a home visit? Do you know what it’s like to be on call and to remove a child from their home at 3 a.m. in the morning? I needed a new career.

I needed a transition to a career where I was still focused on children, and families, and the community. I still wanted to work hard and make a difference. I wanted to give back and I still wanted to teach. So I interviewed for Teach for America for the second time in 2014. Social work had hardened me. I was no longer a crier. I’m an experienced adult now. I’ve been a supervisor, I’ve testified in court, I’ve led trainings, I’ve supported families, I’ve bonded with children — Hell, I’ve kept children safe.

“Dear Allissa, Congratulations! We are pleased to inform you that you’ve been accepted to the 2015 corps.”

I cried often my first year of teaching, but what I’m not is a quitter.

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

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