What's your education story?

As a teenager she rarely went to school, but when she got pregnant everything changed

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy
Gayle Cosby

education_story_graphicChalkbeat journalists ask the people we come across in our work to tell us about their education stories and how learning shaped who they are today. Learn more about this series, and read other installments, here.

Gayle Cosby is a Indianapolis Public Schools board member, a former IPS special education teacher and a doctoral student in the Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis graduate program in urban education studies.

I am a life-long Indianapolis resident, which means that I went to IPS starting in kindergarten and went completely through to the 12th grade. I was really fortunate to have really involved grandparents who thought that education was incredibly important.

I was living with my grandparents, but the summer between middle school and high school year, I was informed that I would be moving back in with my parents to live. It was totally against my wishes — it was not something that I wanted to do.

When I started at Broad Ripple High School in the ninth grade, home life was much different. There was a lot of instability. As a ninth grader at Broad Ripple, I kind of got in with a circle of friends that was not interested in attending class. We would just walk away from the school and go wherever it took us. It went on until I got picked up for truancy one day. It’s the only time I’ve been in the back of a police car.

I was at that time pregnant with my daughter Sierra.

My father came up to the school and informed the dean that I was pregnant. The dean said, ‘you can’t continue to go to Broad Ripple. There is a special school for pregnant girls over on Tech’s campus, and you are going to need to go there.’

I didn’t want to but I did transfer to (Arsenal Technical High School). Everyone there was in the same situation that I was in, so that made it incredibly easier to focus on my current situation and think about my future.

Sierra came in September of 1995. I was 15. I was very, very fortunate to be selected for a program called the Vivian Smith Teen Parenting Program. It was a home daycare exclusively for teen moms.

This was my typical day as a teen mom. You get up at probably around 4:30 a.m., get Sierra ready and get yourself ready. Because the Vivian Smith Teen Parenting Program sent a passenger van to your house to pick you and the baby up. They ran a route, picked up the rest of the girls and the babies and took us to the day care. Then they would feed us breakfast. (Then we) went out and caught the school bus to Tech. And then you do the reverse every day. That was my high school life.

(It was a) blessing in disguise — my daughter coming at the age of 15 is what kind of derailed me from the self-destructive path that I was on.

What's Your Education Story?

Bodily fluids and belly buttons: How this Indianapolis principal embraces lessons learned the hard (and gross) way

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy
Christine Rembert at the Teacher Story Slam, April 19, 2018.

For Christine Rembert, principal at Francis W. Parker School 56 in Indianapolis Public Schools, education is the family business.

Her dad teaches chemistry to adults, and her mom is a retired high school English teacher. So it made sense that Rembert, too, would be an educator. As she has transitioned from a teacher to an administrator, she’s done a lot of learning — in fact, she considers herself not the person with all the answers, but the “lead learner” in her school.

And it hasn’t always been glamorous. Dealing with bodily fluids, for example, is a regular part of her day. As a new principal, she confronted that head-on in an anecdote she recounted in a recent story slam sponsored by Chalkbeat, Teachers Lounge Indy, WFYI Public Media, and the Indianapolis Public Library.

Here’s an excerpt of her story. It has been lightly edited for length and clarity:

The last story I have to tell happened in my first few months as a school administrator, and I’ve learned many things from this story. I was sitting at my desk and doing some work, and my behavior person came in.

That’s the person who’s kind of the bouncer in the school who manages all the naughty kids. So we had that person, and she came in, and she was a tall woman — over 6 feet tall. She looked down at my desk, and she said: Do you want me to tell you the story first?

And I, in all my brand-new administrator wisdom, said no. And she goes, well, I have a teacher and a kid, and we need to talk to you.

And I was like, OK come on in!

Well, note to self: When the behavior person says do you want me to tell you the story, you need to say yes right then.

Because the reason is you have to not laugh.

So the teacher came in, and she has a Clorox wipe, and she’s (frantically wiping her nose). And I was like, OK, that’s weird. She sat down, and the child came in, and she was kind of sad.

I proceeded to hear the story whereby the child had stuck her finger into her (wet) belly button and then held it up to the teacher’s nose and said: Smell my finger.

Public education is like living in a fraternity house.

Check out the video below to hear the rest of Rembert’s story.

You can find more stories from educators, students, and parents here.


What's Your Education Story?

How this Indianapolis high school teacher won the trust of her most skeptical student

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy
Sarah TeKolste, right, and Lori Jenkins at the Teacher Story Slam, April 19, 2018.

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.