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Shaping the future

Shaping the future

Jenna Kurek ’17 September 12, 2019

wanted to be a teacher ever since I was little. There was never a time when I even considered another profession. It was even on my first grade “What do you want to be when you grow up?” poster.

When I was young, I knew that teachers taught and that they were loving and caring because that’s what I witnessed. I was always trying to help people who didn’t understand something, always knew how to love and care for others, and I loved being in school. So, in my head, teaching was the profession for me.

Jenna Kurek by Zachary GhaderiAs I grew up, my idea of teaching shifted. In high school, I knew I wanted to make a difference. I had seen too many students slip through the educational cracks and too many students who came from a different socioeconomic background have very different educational experiences. I grew more and more frustrated by this, and I wanted to fill in the gaps.

I chose UD because it made me feel comfortable in a very uncomfortable situation. I am a homebody and love being around people I know. By taking the challenge to step out of my comfort zone — and go to a school that was far away from home in Cleveland —  it pushed me to be more independent.

At UD, I was pushed by my professors to be the best teacher that I can be. It was not a specific professor, but rather the culmination of professors that proved to me that I can be the best teacher, regardless of the socioeconomic area I want to work in, because there is no child who deserves any less than the absolute best that a teacher has to offer.

UD had everything to do with where I am today. Given the fact that I am a homebody, I fully expected to go back to Cleveland at the end of college. All that changed when I became a part of the Neighborhood School Centers, five schools through Dayton Public that serve as healthy places of learning for children and families. I fell in love with Kiser Elementary. The diversity is unimaginable — students from all around the world, coming together for the common good of education and achieving goals. I worked with the Neighborhood School Centers through UD’s Fitz Center for Leadership in Community for two years, and when I started my student teaching, I requested Kiser. I am now a third-year teacher at Kiser, and I love it even more than when I started.

I am a third grade teacher in an urban school. I have seven languages spoken in my classroom and students from around the world. My students are met with daily challenges in their home lives, but we work hard to not let that interfere with their education. In addition to basic math, reading, writing and science curriculum, I teach a lot of trauma sensitivity. I teach students how to respond appropriately to challenges and adversity in a respectful way. These coping mechanisms allow them to channel their emotions in a more positive way. I teach them about the love I have for them, the love they should have for each other, the love they should have for their families, and the love they should have for themselves. Many of my students haven’t learned those life lessons for various reasons. They don’t know how to correctly cope with their feelings, and if they can’t do that, I know I need to fill that gap. My students will be the best versions of themselves when they are in my room — I hold them to that expectation. UD taught me how to work hard to get where I am today, and I will continue to teach my students to work as hard as they can to meet their
life goals.

People say to me, “Why do you only want to be a teacher? You’re smart and you can do anything you want.” My response is always the same, “I am shaping the future for tomorrow. These students will be in charge one day, and I know that because I push them every day to be what they want to be. Every child is worthy of a quality education, and no child will be left behind — not if I have anything to do with it.”

Illustration by by Zachary Ghaderi