Finding passion in a career is one thing, but finding it at the school you spent kindergarten through eighth grade at is another. That’s where Rebecca Penrod, Endeavor Charter Academy alumna and special education teacher, found herself after years away from the school.
But she never really left the family. Tanza Penrod, who happens to be Miss Penrod’s mother and dean at Endeavor, was a teacher at Endeavor when Miss Penrod was growing up. Various staff members she now works with were also around when she was roaming the halls as a student.
As an adult, Miss Penrod serves as a special education teacher. She reflects on her own educational experience, mentioning that she was lucky to have someone at home who cared about her school experience and helped her build confidence.
And building confidence is what Miss Penrod set out to do with her students.
She wants to be the person in their lives who doesn’t give up on them, often remembering a quote from motivational speaker Josh Shipp, “Every kid is one caring adult away from being a success story.”
To instill confidence in her students, she starts with a growth mindset. “I talk to the kids about how important their words are, even when they’re talking to themselves,” said Miss Penrod.
To promote this way of thinking, she helps her students change phrases like “I can’t do that” and “that’s too hard for me” to alternative phrases like “I can’t do that yet, but I will soon” and “that seems hard, but I’m still going to try my best.”
“I’ve noticed that special education students have much lower confidence than their peers,” said Miss Penrod. “They recognize that they don’t understand or aren’t as far ahead as their friends and it affects them.”
She believes that helping students with their emotions and confidence is the key to helping them in academics. “When a child is confident, they try harder, and when they try harder, they succeed,” said Miss Penrod.
She also makes it a point to approach students holistically, which is why she adopted starting her sessions with check-ins using a chart from the social workers at Endeavor. The check-ins consist of her asking students what zone color they’re in (green is ready to learn, calm, happy, focused; blue is sad, tired, nervous, sick; yellow is frustrated, anxious, excited, a little out of control; and red is angry, upset, out of control). This allows her to better meet their needs and approach each lesson from a better place.
Motivational quotes are also posted around her room as an extra reminder for her students. One says, “We’re in this together,” which helps them remember they’re not alone in figuring out hard things. Another says, “I can’t do it YET,” which she has noticed students start to say on their own – something she loves to hear.
“Though new to the special education role, Miss Penrod has built and maintained lasting relationships with all her students,” said Mischa King, dean of upper elementary at Endeavor. “She is intentional about how she adapts instruction to meet the individual needs of her students. She develops strong rapport with her families and communicates with them often. She initiates opportunities to advance her professional learning and engages everything with a team approach.”
Keep up the great work, Miss Penrod.