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Career Calculation: My student teaching experience at Frederick Douglass Academy

Written by Jackie LeBlanc '08

Jackie student teaching at FDA.

It’s hard to describe exactly how I felt when I first learned that I would be going to Harlem for a week to observe classes and teach math. The emotion was somewhere between excitement and panic. How was I going to teach in a school that I had never been to before, much less in Harlem? Recently back from that trip, I am excited to say that my experience at Frederick Douglass Academy (FDA) was far better than I imagined it would be.

I am a senior math education major preparing to student teach next semester. In New York State, education majors must have a certain number of observation hours before they can become student teachers. These hours are spread out across a variety of undergraduate education classes, which slowly introduce students to classroom life and show them how to be effective teachers. I also take pedagogy classes, which teach students specifically how to write lesson plans and present them effectively.

Not all observation hours are done in classrooms or local schools; some must be done in an inner-city school. FDA has a very strong partnership with Ithaca College, and every year during fall break, education majors travel to FDA for a week of observing and teaching before embarking on their full-semester teaching experience in local schools in the spring.

I was excited that first day I woke up to go to FDA. I took the subway from Times Square to Harlem with 40 other students in the education group. Upon entering the school we were greeted by a sign that read, “Welcome Ithaca College students and faculty.” One look at that sign and I knew my experience at FDA was going to be wonderful.

FDA is a public school, but all of the students are required to wear uniforms. Although the school’s atmosphere is similar to that of a private school, it is also quite unique. Pictures of the students are proudly displayed, and posters with words of encouragement, such as “Failure is not an option,” appear in the hallways and classrooms.

That students will give their best efforts is the expectation at FDA. In return, FDA offers a safe, comfortable, and encouraging learning atmosphere. Every student at FDA was excited to meet us, and the feeling was mutual. They asked us questions about college and our futures. It was amazing to hear all of these students’ dreams and witness how determined they were to achieve their goals.

During my first day at FDA I shadowed a senior and went with her to her classes, which gave me the opportunity to get to know some of the students. The next day I met with my mentor teacher, whom I was to observe later that week. She took me to many different classes so I could observe a variety of teaching styles. After meeting with our mentors, my fellow student teachers and I met with the seniors at FDA to talk about college. This opportunity was a chance to gain even more insight into the goals and dreams of the students.

Thursday was the last day of observation and learning before I would take my place at the front of the classroom. I spent the day observing and meeting with my mentor teacher to plan my Friday lesson. That evening I wrote and practiced my lesson plan at the hotel. Friday was the big day!

Although I was incredibly nervous to teach for the first time, I was excited to begin. The students in my class were respectful, and they seemed to be truly engaged in my lesson. I cannot explain how I felt teaching at FDA, but at the end of that class, I knew that teaching was the only profession for me. I am so thankful that I had the opportunity to teach for the first time in a supportive and exciting school like FDA.

By the end of the week I had learned a lot about teaching, the students, and myself. I didn’t just go to Harlem to teach for a week; I observed and taught at a school that should be a model for all schools. I realized how important it is to make them feel safe and comfortable and to motivate them to learn and to follow their dreams. I also had an experience that increased my knowledge of teaching, sharpened my skills, and bolstered my belief that I’ve chosen a career path that’s right for me.


I attend the Frederick Douglass Academy!! =D






jackie if i had to be anyone at phonathon it would be you. huzzah!


You're kind of a big deal.

- Erik

Dearest Jackie,

your the best teacher ever and you have really cute cloths!

Ally G

Jackie LeBlanc is the kind of teacher every school wants to have. She is dedicated to teaching her students and creating a comfortable enviornment for them. Her hard work and dedication will bring her success and enjoyment with the career she loves most. I can only wish her years of success, which I know she will achieve!

Jackie is going to be the teacher we all wish we'd had growing up. I don't know that I've ever met a girl so passionate about learning and loving what she's doing. I don't think there's a single thing she can't handle. Way to do the damn thing girl!



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