Teacher Tribute
"It Changed Who I Was as a Teacher"

Reflecting on a Project 6 Years Later

Need in Deed has the privilege of working with students and teachers on many fascinating and transformative student-led projects. But sometimes, a special kind of alchemy occurs between students, teachers and community partners, creating something that is more than the sum of its parts, that never really leaves us.

NID Executive Director Barbara Dundon recently revisited just such a project, and created an audio story with the help of NID Teacher Network member Katie McGarry and her former student, Jeffry Chenault. In 2005 – 06, Jeff was in Katie’s second grade class at Gideon Elementary School in Philadelphia’s Strawberry Mansion, a neighborhood especially hard hit by violence.

“We chose fighting because it was a major thing that was going on in our school and our community,” Jeff said, reflecting on how the students chose their NID topic that year. Jeff’s class eventually created a movie to share the conflict resolution skills they learned through their project.

Jeff and his classmates were especially moved by a visit from Kevin Johnson and his mother. Kevin was left paralyzed from the neck down after being shot during an argument; not long after meeting with the class, Kevin succumbed to complications from his injury. Katie and Jeff joined Need in Deed at our recent Shout Out to present the “Outstanding Community Partner” awards to recognize individuals and organizations who, like Kevin and his mother, had a major impact on students’ projects.

Both Katie and Jeff (who graduated from Gideon this year and will be attending Central High School in the fall) agree that their project, while emotionally difficult, changed them for the better.

“I feel like it changed who I was as a teacher and how I communicated with children,” Katie says. “Sometimes it was overwhelming and sometimes it was stressful and upsetting, and other times it was like awe … I’ve never gotten this far with a class emotionally. So it really changed me as a teacher.”

Jeff gained a new appreciation for his teachers: “When you were younger you never realize how good your teachers were to you and how much they went through.”

Read more about Katie and Jeff’s project here, and listen to Barbara’s interview with Katie and Jeff here.