To say that Sarah TeKolste and her student, Lori Jenkins, started off on the wrong foot would be an understatement.
New to teaching, TeKolste had high hopes for her Spanish class at Emmerich Manual High School, but she was met with sullen students who missed their former teacher. TeKolste wanted to forge a connection with Jenkins and her friends, who sat each day in the back of the class making their displeasure with her teaching blatantly obvious.
But TeKolste didn’t give up — on teaching Spanish or trying to reach Jenkins, who was dealing with personal issues that made school the least of her worries. Now, years later, both agree the tears, exasperation, and efforts were worth it. The two have grown so close, in fact, that Jenkins made TeKolste the godmother of her daughter.
TeKolste and Jenkins were two of eight educators and students who participated in a recent story slam sponsored by Chalkbeat, Teachers Lounge Indy, WFYI Public Media, and the Indianapolis Public Library.
Here’s an excerpt of their story. It has been lightly edited for length and clarity:
Sarah TeKolste: Aug. 4, It’s the first day of my first year as a teacher. I basically meticulously tailored my resume for the past five years for this moment where I’ll become a Spanish teacher for Teach For America.
And I’ve done all these ridiculous things like make this classroom management system that’s very detailed, and I’d made this classroom vision, and I think I’m really ready for what I’m getting myself into. I’m starting at Emmerich Manual High School.
I spent the summer getting prepared, and I’m basically an overly caffeinated nervous wreck.
On the first day of school, about 50 percent of my students come into my classroom, and they are just royally pissed that they don’t have Ms. Brito as their Spanish teacher anymore. That’s probably my first clue that things might not go super smoothly that semester.
Lori Jenkins: It was my senior year and I wasn’t very thrilled because last year we were informed that there were going to be a lot of changes in our staff and faculty and policy.
And as much as I hate to admit it, I had issues with change because a lot of my life has been constant change, and I had no control over it. Due to financial issues at home with my family, and my hormones and emotions were through the roof. I was just going through a lot at the time. But the only place that I had hope for solace was Ms. Brito’s class.
And when I arrived to Spanish class, there was no Brito. Ms. TeKolste’s upbeat smile, her happiness, it irritated my soul. My safe haven was taken from me, and I had to find it somewhere else, in someone or something else.
Check out the video below to hear the rest of TeKolste and Jenkins’ story.
You can find more stories from educators, students, and parents here.