What's your education story?

His journey from school to law led back to education

PHOTO: Scott Elliott
Ahmed Young, 36, will oversee Mayor Joe Hogsett's city-sponsored charter schools and the office of education innovation.

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.

Ahmed Young is the city’s new education director under Mayor Joe Hogsett. He grew up mostly in Washington, D.C., before moving to Indianapolis when his mother took a job at Indiana University. We met with him earlier this month to talk about his plans for his new job. Here’s his story:

One of the first lessons from my mom I can remember was to find something to do for someone else on your birthday. On my birthday, I would go to Mrs. Pearsall’s house and ask if I can take out the trash or rake leaves or something. She is just an advocate for people. That was her initial entree into education. She got a degree in early childhood education and was a kindergarten teacher. She was our advocate growing up. She filled whatever holes there was in our education. You could not say the B word: “bored.” She found some activity for us to learn.

I came here to go to Indiana University. I was in a fantastic program called Project Team that focused on multicultural education. I studied teaching and cultural competency. As I finished up the teacher education program, I did student teaching at Broad Ripple High School and got hired. Then moved to Craig Middle School in Lawrence Township. I had a great building leader, Bill Gavaghan, who gave me space to grow and learn from failures as a new teacher.

I met my wife though Upward Bound through IUPUI. I was running it and she was a last-minute hire as a counselor. I was her boss. The roles have flipped, I can assure you. She moved to New York City, so after four years in Lawrence Township, I moved there too.

I interviewed with New York  City Department of Education. The lady said, “I have the perfect principal in the Bronx.” There I met Andrea Cypress, who ran the School for Inquiry and Social Justice. I had done so much reading on social justice in education, I figured it was meant to be. She said, “Can you do a lesson tomorrow?” I did and the students got into it. The one student who didn’t was a student of mine the next year. I still remember his name. Milton. I still remember him.

I liked the challenge of law school. My father-in-law, Judge (David) Shaeed highly recommended it. I got a scholarship and law school provided all the challenges I expected: intellectual challenges, time management challenges, life balance challenges. But it was great to have the support system of both my families.

It feels like I am drinking water from the fire hydrant now. They have a great team at the Office of Education Initiatives. I want to learn from them and find ways to advocate for fully funded preschool education. I want to go to the Statehouse and make the case to get fully funded preschool education statewide. We appreciate the pilot program but it’s the tip of the iceberg.

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.