“When I was in college [in Madison, Wisconsin], we talked about changing the world. Service-learning was part of the conversation. It was all about being part of the community where you live, feeling connected. I would like my students to be dedicated to serving their communities.”
Leslie is a first-year member of the NID Teacher Network. She has been teaching for seven years. She spent her first four years teaching in Milwaukee (whose school district is using NID’s service-learning approach this year), then moved to Philadelphia two years ago when her husband got a job here.
“I love it here,” says Leslie. “I’m here to stay.”
She also loves being a special ed teacher. At Jay Cooke Elementary School she works with eight students with special needs in an inclusion class, meaning her students do most of their work in a typical classroom. Leslie’s job is to make sure they stay on task, have their materials and are making progress with their goals in the general curriculum.
When the students in Section 313 delivered their persuasive essays several weeks ago, she was thrilled to see that one of her students volunteered a personal story, particularly since this was the first time the student had spoken in class.
“I knew this student’s capabilities,” says Leslie, “but it was really surprising to Mr. Miller [the social studies teacher with whom Leslie team-teaches service-learning.]”
Leslie teaches in an “Empowerment School,” a school that has not made adequate yearly progress, as defined by No Child Left Behind. “Everybody’s feeling the extra pressure,” she adds.
The School District is requiring that teachers spend more time preparing for PSSA’s (Pennsylvania’s standardized tests), which means teachers like Leslie have to get creative in finding ways to integrate project-related lessons into their daily teaching practices.
“I’m feeling a bit stuck right now,” she admits. She is hoping her principal will approve a field trip since she believes her students will get more out of their project if they can apply what they are learning in a real-world setting.
“I’m hoping for a really good project,” she says, “one my students will remember when they’re in high school. I want them to look back on this experience as a time when they had a voice, when they did something they thought was meaningful.”