Jenelle began exploring home visits and family engagement with DCPS as a Family Engagement Collaborative (FEC) fellow. As a fellow, she gained insight into DCPS’s relationship with Flamboyan and the work Flamboyan was conducting in schools. She applied to work with Flamboyan on expanding the teacher toolkit. At the same time, she came back to FEC as a facilitator and developed her facilitation skills. Jenelle loved working with Flamboyan that summer, believed in the organization’s mission, and applied to become a Flamboyan trainer.
When she was a classroom teacher, REAL Family Engagement changed the trajectory of the relationships Jenelle was able to build. While working in a school with many emergent bilinguals, she struggled to connect to students and families because she never had the strategies or skills to communicate effectively. She noticed the discrepancy in her relationships and, ultimately, student academics. The relationship with non-native English speakers was pleasant but never impactful. As a first-generation immigrant, Jenelle’s family always stressed the importance of education. Therefore, she always wanted to connect with her students and their families to show how much she valued education and went above and beyond to ensure all students had an equitable learning experience. She longed for that connection but wasn’t able to articulate that in an authentic and caring manner.
Originally, this is why Jenelle sought out home visits. After she developed the tools to have an effective home visit and strategies to sustain a relationship with students and families throughout the year, she immediately saw a difference in collaboration and academic partnering. The language barrier remained, but that did not hinder her ability to build long-lasting connections with families. The tools she received from REAL Family Engagement have carried on with her throughout her career and are one of the most critical components of her success as an educator.
What excites you about your role as a Flamboyan Trainer? I love connecting with educators. I love teaching, but I’m not the best student. Sitting through professional development is often a struggle because many facilitators can’t capture my attention. For this reason, I love being a trainer because I get to be the facilitator I always wish I had. I’m also passionate about equity and family engagement, and I think that is highlighted genuinely during sessions.
What else is important for folks to know about you? Most recently, I was recognized as a 2021 DC Milken Educator. Dubbed the “Oscars of Teaching,” I strive to positively impact the lives of others and seek opportunities for students and educators.