By Cheryl Jeff-Treaudo
Ms. Treaudo is a Kindergarten teacher at Firstline’s Samuel J. Green Charter School and a 2017 New Orleans Excellence in Teaching Award Winner.
For 24 years, I have been a teacher here in my home city of New Orleans. The last twelve of those years have been at Samuel J. Green Charter School. Every morning when our children get off the bus, I am there to hug them. I hug my own kindergarteners as they arrive for the day, but at this point, older students I’ve taught also run up to say hello. I have taught so many families at Green that it seems I know every child; I have educated entire lines of siblings and cousins. It has been a privilege.
I didn’t plan on becoming a teacher. That journey began many years ago as I tried to find an early childhood program for my son. I did extensive research on the state of public schools in New Orleans and found that they varied deeply by neighborhood; some struggled a great deal. I was concerned for my son’s educational opportunities, but I wouldn’t let it lead us to move out of New Orleans.
Instead, I enrolled in Southern University at New Orleans’ Post Baccalaureate Program and became a substitute teacher at Lusher Elementary. I worked to begin my impact on education in the city I loved. This would no longer just be about my son. Growing up, my family taught me to give back to my community and love the people around me. Teaching was my chance to contribute.
Twenty-four years later, I’ve fallen in love with this profession and I’ve watched education in our city transform. There’s been a surge for creating great schools in recent years. I’ve realized that, as teachers, we are not alone in our work for students. There is a constellation of support for each one–and it’s our job to make the most of it.
My charter network, for instance, stands behind each of our students. My network, Firstline Schools, has given me the opportunity to fulfill my own mission as an educator–to make sure all our children have the chance to receive a great education, go to college, have great careers and successful lives. Firstline is here for us as teachers, and therefore for our students as well.
But it’s not just a school or a network that is there supporting students. It’s the entire world of education in New Orleans. We are all connected, as parents, families, teachers, principals and staff across different schools. I enjoy working with and seeing my other colleagues in the city. We have the opportunity to share ideas, develop new strategies and socialize with each other. I am proud to work alongside other educators who believe the same things I do about our children and their potential. In this way, all of us in this work stand behind each child and their success.
There’s another critical part of the network of care we provide for children: their families. I believe that being a great teacher means knowing a child’s family. Having the opportunity to do so has been one of the most rewarding parts of my job. I watch families grow and I get the chance to be a part of their lives.
I want to show our students the network of support they have as often as I can, so I often invite families to the classroom. I work hard to create great experiences not only for children but also for their parents and relatives, caretakers and siblings as well. For kindergarten graduation, for instance, so many of my students’ families showed up. Our principal spoke and we handed out certificates for each child. We had food and activities, and the event was crowded and celebratory. The network of support for each student felt so strong that day.
As an educator in this city, I recognize that we are all connected. From our network, to our neighboring schools, to the other teachers and school staff across the city, to our families, we are all here to show up for students. Our goal is to educate them, protect them and prepare them for the world ahead. For twenty-four years, it has been my privilege to do so, and I am grateful to continue each day.
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