I always knew I wanted to be a teacher - that joy you get when students have an "ah-ha!" moment is something that was dear to my heart from the beginning - but I didn't have a simple path. As a young child, I loved school; it was a place of joy and knowledge, and I appreciated it. But as I reached high school, all the distractions we face as young adults hit me, and before I knew it I was sitting in a summerschool classroom, trying to fight my way to graduation months after my classmates had walked the stage. I perservered through summerschool, and graduated - but that experience gave me perspective. Perspective on the value of my education, and perspective on the things that impact a student's ability to learn.
I took that experience with me as I pursued my career in teaching and special education, and I still bring it to work with me every day. As the lead special education teacher at Distinctive College Prep - Harper Woods, it's not only my job to pull together small groups of students throughout the day who have specific learning needs, but also to support our general population of students - many of whom come to school every day with trauma that affects their social-emotional learning, beyond the simple academics. That means looking beyond inappropriate behaviors, and practicing empathy for kids who need someone to address their frustrations in a constructive way - and not punishing them for outbursts that they often can't yet control emotionally.
As a parent myself, I often think that if my son was struggling in the ways that some of my kiddos do, I'd hope that there would be at least one person at their school, every day, who was his advocate - in whatever form it took. When I work with the kids in my school, my focus isn't just on correcting a behavior, it's about building a strong and trusting relationship - one that ensures each child that no matter what happens, I'm still going to be there tomorrow, in their corner, for whatever they need. That entails building bonds with their parents, and their other teachers. It means keeping my cool, even when it's near impossible. Most importantly, it means reinforcing that concept of restorative justice, where new beginnings are often, open and non-judging.
I've had many experiences in education over my career - some in the charter sector, and some in the traditional public sector. At DCP Harper Woods, I finally feel home; I am surrounded by a team of dedicated and passionate educators and administrators, and yet I still have the autonomy to be innovative with curriculum - a core element of the charter model that has allowed us to adapt to the needs of our students as they continue to evolve.
Chrys wears many hats, beyond being the main special education resource at DCP Harper Woods. From Girl Scout troop leader, to Book Fair organizer, to creating a daily lunch program to help all students with reading, her wealth of knowledge as an educator is both vast and inspiring.
- Teneia Ross-Terry, MI Regional Special Education Coordinator for DCP Harper Woods
And for me, that vested interest I put into every one of our kids is meaningful - because DCP Harper Woods isn't just my workplace, it's my neighborhood school. Every day, I walk to work, engage with my neighbors (many of whom are parents and students), and get to see the impact we have reflected in my community. The relationships are critical, because these kids will become the future leaders in Detroit, the city that I grew up in and chose to come home to. The work I do today will undoubtedly pay off tomorrow, and that is so special to me.