An educator of 17 years, Gerjuan O’Neal is following in her family’s footsteps.
“My biggest inspiration were my grandparents. My maternal grandmother was a second and third grade teacher, and my maternal grandfather was a high school government teacher. My great aunt was an elementary teacher and then a homebound teacher,” O’Neal shares. “My favorite thing is that I teach kindergarten through fifth grade, so every day is different.”
O’Neal teaches children in kindergarten to fifth grade at Mark Twain Elementary school. She tells us she loves teaching STEM to her students because they can see how it applies to the other subjects they are also learning in school.
“I really like for my students to be creative problem solvers, critical thinkers, and I like to show them all the different components of STEM,” O’Neal explains. “If we are doing a science technology map, everything fits together. If we do a Lego build, we’re doing estimating with numbers. If we are coding, they get to see where math is involved and where they must be critical thinkers.”
She emphasizes creativity in her classroom and says it came in handy over the last two years as she transitioned to teaching her students virtually during the pandemic.
“I became a more creative teacher because I had to rethink how I would teach if I were just in the classroom. But also, how am I going to teach the students who were at home? It was something I had to adapt to,” says O’Neal. “Now that we’re back, I have applied all the knowledge I learned during the pandemic, and it has made me stronger.”
O’Neal is one of six Houston Independent School District (HISD) teacher finalists for the 2021-2022 alliantgroup SPARK Award. She tells us she was excited to be recognized after teaching for nearly two decades and says she’s looking forward to what she can teach her students in the future. This year’s winner will be announced on May 26th.
About the author
Christina Bradberry is a former Emmy nominated News Producer turned Multimedia pro. She joined alliantgroup in the spring of 2022 after nearly a decade in the news industry. When she’s not showcasing alliantgroup’s work in the community and innovative projects, you can find her on the water paddle boarding or on the dance floor learning to ballroom dance.