From part-time teaching to finance, Melanie Jenkins had many professional experiences prior to becoming a full-time ESL teacher. Jenkins has been a fifth grade ESL teacher at Katherine Smith Elementary School for three years but tells us she first got started in substitute teaching.
“I had a friend who was substitute teaching and I got into it that way. Being with the students, especially English learners and bilingual students, who worked so hard to be able to acquire that second language, inspired me and I never forgot those kids,” shares Jenkins.
Jenkins tells us she then went on to fulfill her childhood dream of working in finance but explains, it wasn’t all she thought it would be.
“I still had in the back of my mind these kids whose lives I touched and who remembered me and understood what I was trying to teach them.”
Jenkins got back into teaching and says she did not look back. She says it’s been a challenge because many of her students are learning English for the first time. She says focusing on vocabulary and giving them resources in both English and Spanish is key. Regardless of their language, Jenkins says it’s key to build relationships with her students and understand how they learn best.
“I try to figure out who likes what and how I can bring that into the classroom,” says Jenkins. “If you are a hands-on learner, we have the opportunities to put our hands on things. If you are a project-based learner, you have the opportunity to do projects. So there’s no one size fits all.”
Jenkins tells us her favorite part about teaching is seeing the spark from her students when they step into her classroom.
“If they’ve had a bad day in another class, or before they got to school, by the time they come to my door, everything is turned around because they know they’re going to experience something they might not have experienced before.”
Jenkins is one of six Houston Independent School District (HISD) teacher finalists for the 2021-2022 alliantgroup SPARK Award. This award was created to recognize local teachers who are innovative in helping students learn about STEM. This year’s winner will be announced on May 26th.