What's your education story?

Turning her own learning disability into a teaching tool

PHOTO: Scott Elliott
Kate Stout is a fifth grade teacher at Riverside School in IPS, also known as School 44.

Chalkbeat 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.

Kate Stout teaches fifth grade and is in her second year at Indianapolis Public School 44, also known as Riverside School. She is part of a team of teachers leading an effort to put into place at the school a Positive Behavioral Intervention and Support system, which relies heavily on data to help teachers better track and understand both good and bad behavior by their students. We met her at the showcase for projects by Teach Plus fellows earlier this month.

Here’s her story:

As I child I had a learning disability. I lucked out that my mother was in education. She worked as a librarian and teacher’s aide in the school district. So she was always around and it worked out for me. She learned the laws. Then she would stand up for me and say, “No, my daughter needs this,” and “You’re not doing this correctly.” She took me to tutoring every morning before school and every morning in the summer.

I had an issue with comprehension. I could read things 100 times and have no idea what it said. She found the people I needed to help me get through that. She found services in the district. She found outside help. She sat down with me every night when I did my homework.

I ended up graduating with a Core 40 diploma from Munster High School. It’s a pretty well known school for education. From there I went to Indiana University in Bloomington. I struggled through with the learning disability, but I made it though my four years there. I used all the techniques I learned from all the different tutoring I had. I graduated on-time.

I student taught in Highland, Ind. Then I taught in Gary for two years. I was at Charter School of the Dunes. We had lots of students who had been expelled from Gary schools. The threw me in there as a first-year teacher in a fifth-grade classroom. But I made it though and loved every minute of it.

I moved here because all of my college roommates and my sister were here. I got hired on a Friday morning. I had to clean out my classroom (in Gary) that same day. I moved here on Monday and started teaching on Tuesday. It was a whirlwind.

My classroom is for English as a new language and special education. My kids know I have a learning disability too. They know I work with my coping skills, and I teach them my coping skills. They relate to me and I related to them. We work together.

What's Your Education Story?

As the 2018 school year begins, join us for storytelling from Indianapolis educators

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy/Chalkbeat
Sarah TeKolste, right, and Lori Jenkins at a Teacher Story Slam, in April.

In partnership with Teachers Lounge Indy, Chalkbeat is hosting another teacher story slam this fall featuring educators from across the city.

Over the past couple of years, Chalkbeat has brought readers personal stories from teachers and students through the events. Some of our favorites touched on how a teacher won the trust of her most skeptical student, why another teacher decided to come out to his students, and one educator’s call to ramp up the number of students pursuing a college education.

The event, 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 13, is free and open to the public — please RSVP here.

Event details:

5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Thursday, Sept. 13, 2018
Tube Factory artspace
1125 Cruft St., Indianapolis, IN 46203
Get tickets here and find more on Facebook

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.