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Advocating For Future Generations Through Equitable, Inclusive Instruction

By Whitney Stoepel-Brewer

August 16, 2022

My name is Jeanne Paulino. I use she/her/her pronouns and I'm a 2020 corps member. I currently teach 11th grade special education English.

              I am a first generation American and a low income student. So when I went to high school, I didn't think that I was going to be able to go to college because it was too expensive. My teachers on the other hand saw the potential in me and they helped me to apply to college and navigate that process. Although, I do think it was out of kindness. I think there was a lot of bias built into why they chose to help me out specifically. I'm Filipino so there were a lot of stereotypes associated with Asian folks as being high achievers. And although I did pretty well at high school, there were some students that I think were more qualified than me that didn't get that level of mentorship. So I really want to give my students equitable access to resources and opportunities, especially advocating for folks with special needs, which is my role as a teacher.

              I am an English teacher. So storytelling is apparent in students that because they need to be able to write essays and communicate their thoughts on whatever prompt we have for them. My students are also in 11th grade, so this is a seminal moment in their educational careers. They're beginning to write their personal statements to apply for college and other post-secondary opportunities. So, we want to give students the tools so that they feel empowered to share their story, whether it be about their identity or a challenge that they faced. We really want students to feel comfortable expressing themselves in their identities. So, my co-teachers and I have made it very important to do a lot of identity work, as well as dialogue about student stories and sharing opinions.

“I just think that my ultimate goal of as a teacher is to have students leave the classroom feeling empowered and confident within themselves.”

Jeanne Paulino

Greater Chicago Northwest-Indiana Corps Member 2020

Most importantly, I just think that my ultimate goal of as a teacher is to have students leave the classroom feeling empowered and confident within themselves. I think that for a lot of black and brown students, education is more deficiency based in the sense that there is an inherent belief that students are deficient. But I want to flip that on its head and I want my students to feel like they're sufficient, they're more than enough. And so when they leave high school and enter the workforce or whatever it is they do in the pro secondary careers they are confident in navigating the world.

              I've seen from personal experience how much of a difference it means to have a strong education and strong advocates for you. If it weren't for my teachers that helped me navigate the process and giving me those tools necessary for post-secondary success, I wouldn't be in this position. I made a life for myself, I moved away from home and I wouldn't be here without those teachers. And I look back on my classmates and I wonder what would happen if they also had that opportunity? So that is a big motivating factor personally for educational equity. I think also, especially given the political climate today, literacy around credible sources and how to form your opinion is really important for students to know. So, it goes beyond just reading comprehension or mathematical computation, it extends to one's ability to critically engage with the world around them and assess new sources. So, I think that's another factor. I want students to be able to navigate the world so that they are able to discern the truth and have strong opinions that are backed with reasoning.

              When I graduated from college I didn't really know what I wanted to do. I was pre-law for all of my undergraduate career and I realized, I hated the thought of being a lawyer after interning at two different law firms. So I joined Teach for America and I learned a lot about myself and what I want in a career. So I've really enjoyed things that have to do with writing as well as mentorship, whether it be reviewing students work or my advisory. At my school we get a group of students to advise, we start in ninth grade and now I am an 11th grade advisor. So I'm going to teach the students that I have in my advisory. And I wouldn't have had the opportunity to mentor them and be there for them had it not been for this job. I also am staying at the placement school, the same role that I was placed in for Teach for America because I've really enjoyed the work environment and this relationships with students that I've had.

              In the future I'm not quite sure if I'm going to remain in teaching, but I do think I know for a fact that I want to do something with writing, whether it be book agency or editing, because I've really enjoyed that aspect of my job.