Meet JASMINE WONG, a third-grade gifted-classroom teacher at Champaign's Booker T. Washington Elementary who has — in a way — been teaching for most of her life.
"When I was a kid, I taught my stuffed animals and I made my brother and anyone else who came to my house for a play date be my students," she says. "It was kind of weird. I'm actually from Chicago; I came to Champaign to go to college at the UI for four years and I stayed after college. I started my first job in here in this exact room and I've been teaching in this room for four years."
Here's more on the leader of a classroom that's equal parts STEM and kindness:
Something I like about teaching at Booker T. Washington is ... the STEM aspect — the fact that we're a STEM school and encourage all different genders and all different people to go into STEM fields, because that's really important.
I incorporate teaching kindness by ... trying to put it into the curricula. We don't have a lot of time in our school-packed schedules, so you have to be very particular, very creative in the way you put it in. You can also put it in science. So we talk about how scientists don't often work by themselves in laboratories, so if you want to be a scientist, you have to learn how to connect with the people you're working with. We talked about what it looks like to have teams and what it looks like to be kind to someone when they don't agree. We talk a lot about not agreeing because in the real world, we don't agree on a lot of things. It's OK to disagree, but how do we disagree in a way that's not harmful.
Another thing I do in my classroom is ... every morning, my students do a coloring activity with quotes. While they're coloring, they'll read things like "In a world where you can be anything, be kind." That's my favorite quote. I had a really phenomenal teacher in fifth grade — she was a quote lady, and that's how I got interested in giving quotes to my kids: Because every day, the quote made me think of something different, and on days when I needed a pick-me-up, I felt like she inspired us. I have a whole wall of growth mindset quotes — because that's how we train our brains. My favorite moment is when their face lights up and they say "Ms. Wong said it's not a joke if the other person isn't laughing with you," and I'm like, "Oh, you get it."
I can't live without ... student choice in the classroom. I have a lot of different seating options because I have kids who need to sit on the floor or who need to sit in a different chair. My favorite color is teal — I like bright colors and warm climate and culture for the classroom. I can't live without my laminator. And my mailbox, where my kids write me letters.
Outside of teaching, my greatest passion is ... traveling. Over the breaks, I've been to Singapore, Japan and Hong Kong, and I also went to Canada. So I've been trying to go to different places to see the world. I feel like every new experience has brought me something new, whether it's me trying new foods or going to new cultures, and I think that has shaped my mindset.
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On Wednesdays, we’ll spotlight an area educator who is making a difference in the classroom and community. To nominate, email N-G schools writer Lyndsay Jones at email@example.com or tweet her (@__lyndsayjones).