Northeast Clark-Shawnee HS teachers make a difference through storytelling and humor
Reed Jones, an eighth-grade American history teacher at Northeastern High School, makes class fun using his humor, storytelling, and music. His humor and “carefully curated sarcasm” mixed with attention and light are what help him keep students interested in the classroom.
As a teacher, Jones tries to be as authentic as possible with her students to build relationships and help them feel there is a reason to listen and engage in the classroom, as well as accountability. and work doesn’t have to mean “boring”.
“Since the last five letters of history are synonymous with history, my classroom is full of stories, and I do my best to help my students see the interplay between America’s stories and their own experiences. I often do it with humor, but there are lots of ways to achieve that, and as long as you’re not fake with the kids, I think you can connect,” Jones said.
Not only does Jones use storytelling, but he incorporates music into his class because it can be easier to remember. He also sometimes brings his guitar or banjo to play to help bring the content to life.
Jones said it’s about trying to make the content personal and memorable, and he thinks the music does that.
“I can play them the same song a few days in a row as they come in and finish their warm-up, that way it becomes the earworm that becomes the soundtrack for the rest of the days. Then we relate it to a concept or idea that we’re talking about in class and I think they understand the idea more deeply and remember it better than if I had used a more traditional teaching method,” did he declare.
Bringing all of these aspects into the classroom is satisfying to Jones because it makes teaching more meaningful and personal. Engagement and learning don’t happen without connection, which is how Jones said he was able to make that connection with his students.
Szekacs is an intervention specialist for students in grades 9-12 in an intergrade classroom at local Clark-Shawnee schools. She opened a cafe last year and will continue this year with her students to learn social and life skills.
The cafe started last school year after Principal Chad Mossing suggested starting a coffee cart to make deliveries to staff.
“We needed a work-study class for my students with special needs in high school…We opened the cafe in the 2021-22 school year to allow my students to improve their vocational skills and practice customer service,” Szekacs said.
Jobs are divided according to each student’s abilities, and they have their own uniforms to wear when making drinks and making deliveries. Staff call or email to order coffee. Orders are entered into a spreadsheet and displayed on a television screen where students can tally orders for coffee, tea or hot chocolate.
Teacher’s aides then guide students through the steps of making the cups, and students also decorate the sleeves to give each cup a personal touch.
“Our students enjoy the whole process. They are excited to serve teachers and staff,” Szekacs said. “Coffee is the highlight of our day. Our students learn social skills, financial calculations and work ethic… The project makes a huge difference for our students. The children are very proud of their work.
The shop, located in the Szekacs classroom and featuring an industrial-sized coffee maker and a kitchen stocked with coffee, will open in a few weeks to give students time to adjust to their new schedule and class. . Profits are used to purchase supplies for the classroom and for field trips.
This Springfield News-Sun series shines a light on how teachers are making a difference in the classroom. Sunday’s story featured three educators, and the Springfield News-Sun will feature other teachers through Tuesday.