Q&A With Contributing Writer Lauren Jewett

We’re so happy to introduce Contributing Writer Lauren Jewett! Lauren was chosen as a Champion of Equity for Special Education in the 2022 Excellence in Equity Awards and we are excited to be sharing her expertise with special education teachers and staff throughout the nation. Learn a little bit about her in this Q&A and watch this space for more from her!

Lauren Jewett is a National Board Certified third/fourth-grade special education teacher and case manager in New Orleans with over 13 years of experience. She holds a BA in history and political science from the University of Rochester and is currently pursuing an MA in English from the Middlebury College Bread Loaf School of English where she is part of the Bread Loaf Teacher Network. She is a 2019 ASCD Emerging Leader, worked with Understood as a Teacher Fellow and Content Expert, and serves on the Digital Promise Learner Variability Project Practitioner Teacher Advisory Board.


What was your favorite subject and why?

My favorite subject in school was social studies. I had really great social studies teachers in middle school and high school who made the content engaging and provided strategies that helped me learn and integrate the knowledge we were studying. For example, we did interactive notebook strategies in many of my social studies classes and I loved merging creative outlets with factual information. I also love reading, writing, analyzing, and building connections, and I got the opportunity to do so much of this in social studies classes. My love for this topic is probably why I decided to study history as one of my majors in undergraduate college.

Your job is not easy —why do you do what you do?

My job is certainly challenging, especially because I am responsible for both teaching and case management (paperwork). However, I keep doing what I do because I have always loved helping people and supporting them in reaching their goals and realizing their potential. My job keeps me on my feet, literally and figuratively! Every day and every school year, I learn something new, either about myself, my students, or how to do my job more effectively and reflectively. I get to work with many amazing and interesting people, and play a role in their lives. As someone with a passion for lifelong learning, I appreciate the opportunities I have to teach and learn from others in so many ways.

Who has been your most valued mentor?

Throughout my educational career, I have been fortunate to have a lot of valuable mentors who have helped me with different aspects of growing into the teacher I am today. They have all helped ground me and push me in promoting sustainability in my work. I received mentorship from long-time special education leaders when I was a young special education coordinator in need of guidance on compliance and special education laws.

After earning my National Board Certification, I met Dr. Dolores Cormier-Zenon, who has served as a great mentor and friend in advocating for the importance of National Board certification in our state of Louisiana and encouraging me to pursue excellence as an educator. I also was lucky to have Dr. Melissa Sadorf, a local superintendent in Arizona, as my ASCD Emerging Leader mentor, who served as a model of leadership and commitment for me, especially during the pandemic.

As the nation grows more diverse, do you see equity and access in education becoming a bigger or smaller problem?

I believe that teachers have worked for a long time to improve access for students and act equitably and responsively to meet their needs. I think whatever changes our nation experiences, teachers will continue to do that because it has been something many of us have already spent time learning about, studying, and focusing on in order to help our students and communities.

However, that doesn’t mean we won’t need support, resources, advocacy, and policies in the coming years to help us do that work effectively. Our job as educators is to make every student and family member who walks through the doors of our school buildings feel welcome, included, and affirmed, and it will take not just educators, but everyone, to help address obstacles, barriers, and challenges to that equity and access.

What are the critical skills and competencies students need to develop for success in life, and how do we teach them equitably?

I believe that some of the critical skills and competencies that students need to develop success in life are empathy, self-awareness, communication, problem solving, conflict resolution, and digital citizenship. These skills are ones that can be integrated within any academic subject area. They all involve helping students understand themselves, understand their emotions, understand others, build perspective taking, and honor humanity and dignity of individuals.

I think we teach these skills equitably by understanding that every student and teacher is at a different starting point with them, and we need to meet them where they are. Additionally, equitable teaching of these skills involves us prioritizing time and space to work on these skills more consistently and realizing that they are often more imperative to focus on than our current overemphasis on standardized testing. It is important that educators themselves are mindful in exercising and modeling these skills in their own lives.

Lauren Jewett is a National Board Certified third/fourth-grade special education teacher and case manager in New Orleans with over 13 years of experience. She holds a BA in history and political science from the University of Rochester and is currently pursuing an MA in English from the Middlebury College Bread Loaf School of English where she is part of the Bread Loaf Teacher Network. She is a 2019 ASCD Emerging Leader, worked with Understood as a Teacher Fellow and Content Expert, and serves on the Digital Promise Learner Variability Project Practitioner Teacher Advisory Board.

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