Jordyn Arnel didn’t always want to be a teacher. She applied to BU in the early decision phase during the October of her senior year, where she was forced to declare a major. She chose psychology.
“I was 17, and really unsure of what I wanted to do,” Jordyn explained. “It wasn’t until I got to BU and started taking psychology classes that I realized this wasn’t the path for me.”
While she struggled to focus in her statistics class, Jordyn was fascinated by the intro to education course she took her first semester at BU. It made her add a minor in Wheelock and eventually led her to declare a new major: elementary education in the Wheelock College of Education.
Jordyn has been passionate about working with kids for much of her life, starting with her experience as a Girls On The Run coach in her hometown of Warren, New Jersey. GOTR is a nationwide organization that teaches young girls how to build healthy relationships with food, exercise, and their emotions in a team-building setting centered around female empowerment. Jordyn began coaching her sophomore year of high school and stayed on for 6 seasons, including a virtual one this fall.
Jordyn got to watch the same girls grow up and become more confident and healthy, knowing she made a direct impact on the kids that made a difference in her life. Ever since then, she’s taken many opportunities to work with children.
[bf_image id="s4fqjgjkkhhhnbjqsb6n4vhc"] She’s been a volunteer for Tutoring Plus—a Cambridge-based program that pairs college students with elementary kids to mentor them and help them with schoolwork—since entering BU. There, Jordyn has been working with the same young girl named Joy for the last year and a half, and has loved to watch the growth of her first student. “Joy is the sweetest and most curious kid who is way smarter than I was at her age,” Jordyn beamed with pride as she spoke of her student’s growth since entering the program, and her potential for the future.
Because of COVID, Jordyn took a gap in the fall semester from classes and got a full-time job as a nanny for three young girls, who she has spent the past 9 months guiding through remote learning.
Since entering Wheelock, Jordyn fell in love with the hands-on learning style and ability to work with kids each year. She spent her freshman field placement working in a 6th-grade classroom at Jackson Mann Elementary School in Allston. Before being placed there, Jordyn didn’t think she’d want to teach kids in the upper elementary age range, but now, that’s her career goal.
Jordyn also has a passion for social-emotional learning—which she defined as anything that helps students be introspective and express their emotions—and would love to design a social-emotional curriculum for schools to adopt.
Jordyn believes that the importance of a child’s experience with education extends beyond the traditional academic curriculum. Growing up Jewish and lesbian, she didn’t have many teachers who she was able to see herself in. The few Jewish teachers she did have played a large role in her life, and allowed her to connect with them through identity—something she says is vital for children.
“Any connection students can make to their teachers enhances their learning, and connections via community and culture are so powerful,” Jordyn said. “On top of that, teachers are role models who kids might see more than their parents or see as their parental figure. Having that representation in someone who plays such a large role in your life at a young age is so important. Just to see that you do have a happy, successful future to look forward to no matter who you are.”
Jordyn says she never had any queer educators to look up to, and even today doesn’t know any lesbian adults she can see herself in. “I don’t know any older lesbians. I don’t know any lesbian couples who are together and have kids—I know plenty of young people! But I think it’s really important to be able to look at people you know and respect and relate to and say this is what my life could be like.”
“Queer kids will always know they are welcome and safe in my classroom because I will always be open and proud of my identity in it."
There is a huge lack of diversity among American educators. 79% of teachers in public schools are white, and the majority are women, leaving few men and people of color in the classrooms—the majority of Wheelock students are white women as well.
Jordyn says a lot of this is because of the lack of representation, to begin with—people are less likely to become teachers when they’ve never felt represented in that role—but also because of some inaccessibility in the field.
In order to become tenured, teachers must have a Master’s degree. Some schools offer programs to support teachers through getting their MA, but many districts don’t have the budget to pay for their teachers to get one. If teachers can’t pay for a Master’s program, they may not be able to enter the field out of financial concerns.
In the future, Jordyn hopes education becomes one of the forefront issues in American politics, and that more citizens become aware of issues surrounding it. “Education directly intersects with issues like racism, sexism, [and] classism,” Jordyn explained. “It has a huge stake in all of these things, and it’s the first system [that] all children are affected by. We can’t ignore it while we begin to unpack other oppressive systems in the country, and I don’t think enough people realize that.”
Beyond that, she wants there to be “hope restored” in public education, increased diversity, and of course, a fairer, higher salary for teachers nationwide.