Warren Easton Charter High School Seniors Jasmine Mulder and Destinee Jolly Explore Easton’s Pre-Education Pathway
Warren Easton Charter High School is a special place to start preparing for a career in education. Andrea Spreter, who runs Easton’s pre-education career preparation pathway, estimates that at least 20% of her colleagues on Easton’s staff graduated from Easton themselves. She wants her students to join them in a few years.
“We want students to know there’s a job for you when you come back here after college–a decent living wage and a profession you can stick with and give back to your community,” Spreter says.
This year, twenty-five Easton students are enrolled in the pre-education pathway. They take a classroom-based education course with Ms. Spreter. They also practice their craft as assistant teachers. Some head to Morris Jeff Community School’s elementary school, and others work as assistant teachers at Easton’s own Ninth Grade Academy, across the street from Easton’s main campus.
Easton seniors Destinee Jolly and Jasmine Mulder are in their second year in the program. Both students already had an inside scoop on teaching.
“My mom teaches pre-K,” explains Jolly. “And during the summertime, when school ends, I’ll just go to her school and help out.”
Mulder’s father teaches at Easton, and her grandmother taught for over three decades in New Orleans schools. She says that she was drawn by the chance to student-teach through the pre-education pathway.
“When I found that the program was dealing with children, I really wanted to do it,” she says.
Three times a week, Jolly and Mulder walk down the street from Easton to Morris Jeff’s elementary school. Jolly student-teaches kindergarten. Mulder student–taught kindergarten last year, and opted to follow the same students to first grade this year.
“I wanted to keep up with my kids,” she explains.
She loves the time she spends with them. She takes it seriously.
“I feel responsible, because I feel like everything I do, they’re looking at me,” she explains. “Being a teacher is not all about you. So if you’re having a bad day, you can’t really project it onto the kids, because then it’ll factor into their day.”
She finds, though, that when she’s having a bad day, her students help turn it around.
“My mood changes when I’m in the class with the kids,” she says. “They make my day–if I go in having a bad day, I come back with a better attitude.”
Sometimes, Mulder and Jolly help lead morning routines in their classes, or manage rotating “centers” or reading groups. Often, they respond in real-time to issues that might come up for students.
“The other day, this kid got upset at his friend, because he lost a game or something. And he ran to the back of the classroom, and he was crying. So I waited for him to finish crying,” Mulder explains. “And then we talked about it.”
She knew the class was focused on the idea of “positive vibes,” so she leveraged that.
“Their thing was ‘positive vibes,’ so I was like ‘positive vibes?’ And he gave me a high five–and then he was off!”
Mulder and Jolly talk through moments like this on their walks back to Easton. They discuss their time with their students, troubleshooting and brainstorming for their next sessions.
“On the walk back, it’s like, ‘Oh, so I had this class today. And this happened. And I met this kid,’” says Jolly.
They get to process and discuss back in Ms. Spreter’s class, too. Mulder, Jolly, and their classmates who began the program with them last year have grown close.
“Last year, we didn’t know each other at all when we started. But Ms. Spreter’s class in general is like a family. As time went by, we talked about our kids and our classes, and we bonded with each other. It created a family,” says Jolly.
She’s glad that this pre-education pathway “family” exists, not just because she loves it, but because she believes that the program is critical for preparing the type of teachers she sees and loves at Easton.
“They know the system. They grew up here. So many of the Easton teachers and staff, they graduated from here. They know how to build with us,” she explains.
Mulder agrees. She’s grateful for the way that Easton’s educators make her feel. She lived in Texas for her freshman year of high school, and found that people outside of New Orleans often held negative misconceptions about young people from our city.
“There are a lot of people who underestimate us as a whole,” she says.
She loved coming back home, enrolling at Easton, and being seen for who she was–intelligent, motivated, thoughtful, with a bright future ahead of her.
“It’s really refreshing to be looked at as smart instead of stupid, and to have teachers that understand that, and push you to get a 4.0,” she says.
It’s exciting for Mulder and Jolly to think about more teachers like that entering the field. But college graduation is far away, and they note that even if they and their classmates don’t go into the classroom, the pre-education program has shaped them already.
“It teaches us patience, understanding, and to put a good mindset behind everything. It pushes you to know you’re about to go to the real world and get into your real career, and it gives you a look into our future and adulthood,” Jolly says. “It’s like our own job that real adults have–but we’re seniors in high school and we’re doing it.”