Over the past 22 years, I have had a few moments when I am reminded why I became a teacher. This week I am celebrating another one of those moments.Yesterday one of my Alt Ed students finished all his course work and is now officially done with high school. While this might seem like something common in my area (alternative ed), this young man is one of my personal victories.
I met John (not his real name) in 2009 when he was a student in my sophomore English class. His attendance was deplorable, he was rarely prepared for class, and he struggled getting make up work completed. As a result, he failed English 10. Over the summer, I discovered that John was one of my financially destitute students. He was not prepared for class because he couldn’t afford supplies, he missed so much school because he was living alone with his younger brother with no parents checking on them daily, he struggled with make up work because he had no transportation to stay after school for help. My motherly instincts kicked in immediately.
When school resumed in August 2010, I had John in English 10 again and provided him with all his school supplies. I also let him know that if he needed anything to make sure he contacted me via phone or email. I also let him know that I would encourage him to stay on top of his work and call him if he missed too many days from school. He started out better than the previous year and was passing my class at the end of the first semester. A few weeks after Christmas break, John’s attendance started to drop again. I spoke to his counselor and the school principal, informing them that his 18th birthday was coming up. We were in danger of losing him as a dropout if we did not intervene quickly. A conference with John and the principal resulted in his decision to finish his high school requirements in Alternative Ed.
At the time, I was not involved with the alt ed program but knew that it would help John meet his goals. In April 2011, I began teaching in the alt ed program, replacing the former teacher for the remainder of the school year. Now, I was able to continue to encourage him in his studies and help him in English. By June, John had recovered all his missing credits and passed all his required state tests. He now had only 2 courses to complete and one SOL test to take.
In July, John took and passed his Geometry SOL and was enrolled in his final two courses – English 12 and Government – for the fall through the Alternative Ed program. He would be finished by the end of the first semester if he completed the two classes. John was absent only 7 days between August 22 and November 1 and completed both courses nearly 7 weeks before his target date of December 16.
Today, November 2, John started his first job at Macy’s. His future plans include entering the military next summer. An opportunity exists for him to begin working at a local bank also. I cannot express how proud I am of this young man. I know we saved him from an uncertain future and appreciate the support I got in my endeavor to help him.