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West Orange Times & Observer Wednesday, Aug. 12, 2015 4 years ago

West Orange High alum commits to Teach For America

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by: Catherine Kerr

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Jordan Hudson, a native of Winter Garden, has joined the Teach For America corps of educators after graduating from college this May.

Hudson, 20, is a 2013 alum of West Orange High School. She earned an associate’s degree from Valencia College before high school graduation, which enabled her to finish her bachelor’s at University of Florida in just two years.

This means she is young, compared with most other Teach For America corps members — in fact, she was the youngest in her summer training group of 500 future teachers.

“I feel very welcomed, and I feel like I can be very open about my age,” Hudson said.

Hudson majored in criminology and law, with a minor in communications. Many Teach For America corps members do not have a background in education, but they are able to become certified and get ready for the classroom through the organization’s preparation and summer training programs.

Hudson found out about Teach For America from a student in one of her college classes. She applied, and after being invited to join, she accepted because the organization promotes equal opportunity for all children. 

“I thought it would be a great growing experience and a good opportunity to meet a lot of people that had the same values as I did,” she said. 

LAUNCHED IN LOUISIANA

Hudson spent the summer completing Teach For America’s training program in Louisiana, based in New Orleans. As part of the program, she helped with community events and trash cleanup in the town of Donaldsonville. 

After training, she was invited to a job interview at Lowery Elementary School in Donaldsonville.

“I cannot tell you how excited I was, because I’d already been to the community and I’d already met a bunch of people,” Hudson said.

She “clicked” with Lowery’s principal, Dawn Love, almost immediately.

“(Hudson) is innovative and has already offered ideas on different ways to do things at our school,” Love said. 

Hudson will be teaching fifth-grade math and science. Although she did not focus on these subjects in college, she feels confident in her abilities to teach them because of Teach For America’s training.

Lowery Elementary has about 400 students, and 98% have free or reduced lunch. In 2013, Lowery was classified as an F school, and behavioral problems were a significant issue. The school then began using the Kickboard Instructional Management Solution, which is a paired system of software and coaching that helps teachers set consistent expectations and keep students on task.

Since then, Lowery has brought its grade up to a D, and behavioral infractions have decreased by 29%.

There is still room for improvement: In a 2014 case study by Kickboard, just 55% of Hudson’s incoming students, who were then in third grade, were performing at or above a basic level in math. Only 43% of them were performing at or above a basic level in science. 

“Poverty is a huge obstacle for our students,” Love said. “Many of our students don’t realize the many opportunities that an education affords them.

“As a school, we explicitly outline the effects of poverty and plan as a team how we will overcome them.” 

Hudson has ideas for team-building activities she hopes will encourage a healthy classroom culture. And some of her lesson plans are already entirely scripted out, which was inspired by her mother, Kim Hudson, who is on staff at West Orange High School.

“She is super organized, so she has trained me well, to say the least,” Jordan Hudson said about her mother.

“I’ve met quite a few parents already, and they seem super involved. … I look forward to building relationships with families, along with my students,” Hudson said. “My ultimate goal is to cover content and make it engaging and promote a fun environment that promotes safety and respect.”

WHAT IS TEACH FOR AMERICA?

Teach For America is a nonprofit organization that works nationwide to increase educational opportunity for students in low-income communities, by providing non-traditional teachers to high-need schools in urban and rural areas. The organization is a member of the AmeriCorps service network.

Typically, members are recent college graduates and commit to at least two years of teaching. All corps members work full-time, and those in Hudson’s region of South Louisiana earn a salary of $30,512 to $45,184. 

Contact Catherine Sinclair at [email protected].

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