Kathy Capra is a Middle School Math Resource Teacher at Harriet Tubman Charter School. A graduate of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, Kathy received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Visual Arts with an emphasis on Photography.
Kathy is in her 20th year of teaching and her 6th year with Crescent City Schools. It was a move out west that initially inspired Kathy to look into teaching as a profession. “After college I moved to New Mexico and had the opportunity to work with teens and decided that was my future,” she says. “I promptly started a Teacher Certification program in the Bay Area of California and took my first teaching job as a 6th grade teacher in Oakland, CA.”
As a resource teacher, Kathy teaches small group math classes for 6th, 7th, and 8th grades, as well as two intervention classes. “I enjoy working with scholars in a small group setting because I can watch my scholars become more independent and see their confidence grow.”
Kevin Lapinski, Director of Special Education, has worked with Kathy since her first year at Tubman and sees Kathy’s dedication to her scholars’ success on a daily basis.
“Kathy truly believes all scholars are capable of growth (academically & socially) and will stop at nothing to ensure scholars see that in themselves,” he says. “Her persistence and success in this area drive Kathy to keep pushing.”
Kathy’s scholars also acknowledge how much she pushes them towards excellence.
“Ms. Capra helps me focus when I am in the classroom. She has also helped me to understand how important it is to be respectful, and how to show unity,” says 6th grader Ireon R.
“When I struggled with math problems she would help me out by giving me a pep talk,” says 7th grader Romeka W. “Ms. Capra has taught me since the 5th grade, so even when I was going through things outside of school she has been there to help me.”
In her time at Tubman, Kathy has not only inspired her scholars to grow, but has also used them as motivation to grow herself.
“Although Kathy has 20 years of teaching experience under her belt, she comes each year with a fresh perspective and a growth mindset,” says Kevin. “She loves diving into the content and thinking of new creative ways to teach the curriculum in a meaningful way.”
Kathy believes that this motivation to grow comes from the support she receives from the team at Tubman. “I feel very supported at Tubman. Kevin is constantly giving me opportunities to evolve as a teacher even after 20 years in the classroom.”
Kevin believes that by giving Kathy the tools she needs to grow, she can in turn develop a classroom setting where her scholars can grow and succeed. “Having the opportunity to see Kathy reach scholars, on all ability levels, some of whom also come in with such low confidence and then flourish, is truly an inspiration. She is not only a content teacher, but also someone who nurtures her scholars, pushes them to do what they thought they couldn’t, and celebrates their growth.”
Jennifer Baudy is the 5th-8th grade social worker at Harriet Tubman Charter School. Jennifer received her undergraduate degree from Washington University in St. Louis, and then went on to receive her Master of Social Work from The Ohio State University.
Jennifer started her career in education by working in a head start classroom and was inspired by the center’s social worker. “She seemed to work magic everywhere she went and was always focused on how she could support our students and their families. I was always impressed at the gains our students would make after her interventions and decided that I wanted to be a school social worker. I wanted to commit my work to minimizing the barriers that students encountered and help them be successful at school.”
With over 10 years experience in education, Jennifer still approaches each day as a new adventure. “The needs of our scholars are constantly changing,” she says. “In a single day, I can have individual counseling sessions, connect families to local resources, collaborate with instructional staff to support scholars in the classroom, provide crisis management, develop support plans, teach a socio-emotional curriculum, execute attendance & truancy interventions, and advise the students on our Leadership Council.”
Jennifer’s passion for education is something she developed at a very early age.
“I work in this field because I believe education is the ultimate equalizer. As the daughter of immigrants, education was depicted as a way to a better life, the key to success,” she says. “I understood its value at an early age and witnessed its impact in my life, as well as those around me. I continue to do this work because I want to ensure students have opportunities to learn, grow, and receive all of the benefits of a quality education.”
Carissa Kolakauskas, Tubman’s Director of Student Support, has worked as Jennifer’s supervisor for the past 4 years. In that time, Carissa has seen how valuable Jennifer is to the Tubman community. “For many families in New Orleans, there has existed a long-standing sense of distrust of both public schools and mental health agencies,” she says. “However, Jennifer’s genuine care and concern has allowed her to establish a rapport with both students and their families in a way that creates a sense of trust and partnership. She strives to ensure that students who may come from challenging situations feel accepted, loved, and supported at Tubman and develop the skills that will allow them to be successful in high school and college. It is through these strong relationships that Jennifer is able to empower families and their children to strive for academic success.”
Her ability to build this trust is not only seen by her supervisor, but also by her scholars. “No one knew about some of the things I was going through, but I knew I could talk to Ms. Baudy. She wanted to listen to me and help me work through some of the issues I was facing,” says 8th grader Romaya.
Jennifer believes that a lot of her success with her scholars is due to the fact that professional growth is encouraged among Tubman staff members. “I have had opportunities to participate in, as well as lead, professional development sessions at Tubman and within Crescent City Schools. I’ve been encouraged to expand my knowledge base and pursue continuing education programs outside of Crescent City Schools that are related to my professional interests and Tubman’s mission. The continual input between trainings and supervision meetings has strengthened my skills and challenged me to strive for excellence.”
Carissa has seen Jennifer’s growth impact the entire student support team at Tubman. “In the past four years, Jennifer has grown as a social worker professionally and will soon obtain her LCSW certification. She has also emerged as a leader for the entire team. Her colleagues look to her for professional advice and appreciate her ability to create and manage systems of mental health and attendance interventions.”
Jennifer’s love for the work she is doing and her scholars is obvious when speaking with her. When asked about her favorite memory at Tubman, she is quick to acknowledge her first 8th Grade Farewell Ceremony. “It was a special event filled with love, hope, and pride. The ceremony was the culmination of a year of hard work and the perfect celebration of scholars’ achievements. The evening was filled with smiles, laughter, and tears of joy as scholars were individually recognized, families beamed with pride, and staff members wished the rising freshmen well and reminded them that they would always have a home at Tubman.”
On Monday, November 6th, Harriet Tubman Charter School received a special visit from State Superintendent of Education John White. Tubman was honored to be selected, since this sort of visit is rare. They were also excited about his visit as it gave them the opportunity to show off their K-1-2 Montessori program.
The K-1-2 Montessori program has been highlighted for making significant progress academically as well as offering something unique and special for parents.
Principal Julie Lause expressed how this visit was a special recognition for Tubman and their K-1-2 Montessori program.“The way we think about building a strong foundation for learning is something Superintendent White and his team wanted to see first hand,” she said. “I am very proud of the work we have done internally to get to the point where others want to learn from us.”
Superintendent White was excited to visit Tubman and praised the work being done in the classrooms.
“This school is an innovative school that is doing things creatively for its families and for its children,” he said. “It’s also a great example of how the school came in, took over in a situation that was troubled, and has really turned it around. This is a school that is on the rise, and that’s great news for education in New Orleans.”
Click here to read more about the K-1-2 Montessori Program at Tubman
EdNavigator, a nonprofit whose mission is to help New Orleans families provide their children with the best possible education, recently released its own grades for K-8 public schools in New Orleans.
EdNavigator published its own grades for schools in Orleans Parish on February 2, 2017. Although the state of Louisiana already provides annual grades for schools, EdNavigator’s grades attach greater importance to student growth than those currently provided by the state.
Under EdNavigator’s evaluation, Harriet Tubman Charter School earned a “B” grade for the second year in a row. This grade reflects Tubman’s track record of student achievement, and better demonstrates the progress of students who begin the school year academically behind, make significant strides, but who may still fall short of the proficiency cutoff.
“Measuring growth is so important and we are thrilled that Ed Navigator is using its platform to educate the community about it . Just a few short years ago, Tubman was an ‘F’ school. We have made huge gains along the way, most notably creating an intervention program that supports struggling students,” shared Tubman Principal and Crescent City Schools co-founder Julie Lause.
“The ‘B’ from EdNavigator reflects that most of our students, even very low performing students, are making significant progress each year towards their goal of mastery. We are especially thankful to our teachers who work so hard to help every single scholar make these big gains. We are also grateful that EdNavigator recognizes the important role student growth should play when evaluating schools.”
It has become a holiday tradition for Academy Sports + Outdoors to distribute bikes to schools in Orleans or Jefferson Parish. This year, Harriet Tubman Charter School was selected as the lucky school to receive new bikes for 50 of its students just before winter break.
“Academy really wants to show that we are more than just a sports store,” said Aaron*, the Team Sports Manager at the Academy Sports in Gretna.
Aaron , who used to work with the YMCA, identifies himself as a “someone who cares a lot about kids…we really wanted to show local students that their hard work pays off. We think that a bike is a great gift, as it can be used for exercise and fun. It also provides kids with freedom.”
“When you get home after school you can hop on the bike, ride to another neighborhood, and make new friends,” added Aaron .
Angelo Cross, the Director of Family and Community at Harriet Tubman Charter School, described how Tubman thinks about achievement and how the school selected which scholars would receive the bikes.
“I think we do a great job of pumping up growth and achievement at Tubman in a variety of ways throughout the year. I think what made the bike giveaway a hit was that it was such a surprise, students were not working based on the idea that they were going to win a bike, but really focused on trying to improve their scores.”
“Fifty students in kindergarten through fourth grade were selected to receive the bikes. We chose students who had the highest absolute scores on a recent test, as well as those students who had demonstrated the most improvement. Initially, I think scholars were just excited to hear that they had scored high or greatly improved. It was such an unexpected bonus to receive something like a bike as a result of their hard work.”
Cross finds that students are already benefiting from the bikes.
“I’ve already heard from several parents that students were using their new bikes over the winter break. Bike winners who have older siblings with bikes were especially excited…now they can keep up with their big brother or sister,” said Cross.
*To protect the privacy of their employees, it is the policy of Academy Sports to withhold the last names of their employees.
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In a windowless classroom in Algiers, Gary Briggs Jr.’s sixth-grade students were reading a Greek myth out loud. Phaethon, trembling, stepped up to Apollo, the father he had never known, to ask if he could drive the sun.
“Louder,” Briggs said, pacing. “When you speak I want to hear your ‘Throw me somethin’, mister’ voice.”
The student got into it. “He began to think that his dreams might be very real,” she read.
“I loved this when I learned this in sixth grade,” Briggs said. The Greeks wanted their stories to last. “They’re doing pretty well because we’re reading them today in 2015.” The students expressed their enthusiasm with vigorous finger-snaps. Reading myths, you “see how another culture thinks,” he told them. “We are looking for attempts to explain the way things are in the world.”
Continue reading the full story here.
Each year, the staff and scholars of Tubman eagerly await International Binder Week, an exciting celebration of all things related to getting (and staying) organized. One of the keys to success, in school and in life, is staying organized, and the entire Tubman community uses the week as a time to get their desks, backpacks, binders, and other systems in order. “For our students, organizing their academic lives with binders, agendas, cubbies, and desks is critical to their success at Tubman and beyond,” said Principal Julie Lause.
Highlights from the week included binder and desk “fashion shows,” where student finalists presented their binders or desks to celebrity judges. Students also were excited by the return of past judges, such as Pierre the Binder Inspector, a renowned French judge known for his deep commitment to organization. Crescent City Schools was able to get an exclusive interview with Pierre the Binder Inspector to discuss with him the importance of being organized. Click here to watch the interview.
Finally, Tubman staff and students were visited once again by the elusive and magical Desk Fairy. Click here to view the delight of some of Tubman’s younger students upon seeing the Desk Fairy.
Karen Johnston is a K-1-2 teacher and team leader at Harriet Tubman Charter School. A graduate of the University of Southern Mississippi, Johnston is a founding team member of Tubman who began as a 4th grade teacher in 2011.
With more than 8 years of teaching experience, Johnston first decided she wanted to teach because of her love for children. She soon realized how rewarding it was to be in a classroom. “It is truly fulfilling to motivate and influence my students’ growth on an emotional and academic level,” she said. “Being able to watch them develop their own abilities, skills, and talents has given me the opportunity to really make a difference.”
When asked about her favorite part of teaching, Johnston said she most values the relationships she is able to make. “It is important to me that I have strong communication with my students and their families. I am providing a service to both, and I want their family members to know I am available when needed.” Johnston also appreciates being able to witness the academic gains of her students. “I love when my former students return for a visit; to see the accomplishments they have made reminds me of the love I have for being a teacher.”
Johnston attributes a lot of her own growth in the classroom to her colleagues at Tubman. “Though my team I have learned the importance of teacher actions and how it has a great influence on student actions. I set high expectations for myself and know that my students will use my example for their own success,” she said. “I truly believe that academic habits and personal values are influential to student progress.”
As one of the first teachers her students will have, Johnston knows that she is responsible for building a strong academic foundation. “I want to encourage my students to take risks and engage their minds in everything they do; I want them to understand that lifelong learning will be what cultivates their dreams.”