I started off as a high school English teacher in an East Harlem school with Title 1 funding.
My plan was to become a principal and I knew classroom experience was imperative to being an effective school leader. Teacher training helped me understand how to write lessons plans, use different forms of assessment, and reflect on how my own education may influence the way I “showed up” as a teacher. It didn’t prepare me to deal with all the social and personal factors that influenced a young person’s ability to show up each day, ready and open to learn.
What kept waking me up at night were the worries I had for my students:
- How can we get Kareem safely out of that gang?
- Will Brandon be suspended for having knife when it was to protect himself walking to and from the subway so he could come to school?
- Transferring Javier to that other school for throwing a trashcan at another student is just a Band-Aid and won’t help him manage his emotions and conflicts.
- I wish I could afford to buy Yasmin a new coat so the other kids would stop making fun of her.
- How can I bring Julio back to school before he gets lost in the shelter system, and we never see him again?
- What makes Yvette so resilient when both of her parents died of AIDS?
It seemed that all my concerns were about my students’ personal lives and well-being; their academic progress was almost always secondary. My “why” became seeing young people as assets and not as a set of problems. No learning can occur if our basic emotional, physical, and social needs aren’t addressed.
A series of personal and professional events led me to the afterschool field where I realized that I could align my work with my values.
Out-of-school time programs emphasize the development of young peoples’ characters and social-emotional skillsets; provide a variety of structures and opportunities for youth to learn about their interests and abilities and explore options for their futures; and offer family and social supports to promote the healthy development of youth and communities. I work with community educators to develop their skills so that they are more equipped to empower youth to become agents in their own learning and development than I was.
For breakfast I had hazelnut coffee and a banana.
Heather Loewecke was an English teacher at an alternative high school in New York City before running several afterschool programs. Then, she managed capacity building projects and coached educators in a range of topics such as conflict resolution, professional development planning, lesson planning, social-emotional learning, and behavior management. Heather was also a member of the Children’s Studies faculty at Brooklyn College and taught an interdisciplinary undergraduate course called Perspectives on Childhood. She joined Asia Society in 2013. Heather received a BA in theater from UCSD and a MA in education from Teachers College, Columbia University.