Why This Teacher Needs Jackie Goldberg on the School Board

As I wind up my 24th year of teaching in Los Angeles classrooms , I pause to think of my past lives in different schools and neighborhoods. While presenting to students in Finland I always included a slide of past eras of my life such as growing up in the Eastside, college and adulthood in the Westside, teaching on the Southside, and married life in the Valley. Apart from being a native Angeleno, significant years of my life have been spent living in many parts of town, and teaching in many communities. I love all of them.

Which is why I have no doubt in my mind that what students all over L.A. need more than anything is an ally on the school board. My South Central students need a warrior who recognizes that our teachers’ strike was more than just a salary dispute, but a movement to reclaim our rightful place as agents of change in the profession we love. One that will help us do our jobs serving students. My West Valley students need a fighter who will challenge our legislators to …

Who is AvalonSensei?

Who is AvalonSensei? A teacher dedicated to her students, devoted 100%.

In 2009 I joined Twitter as a way to call attention to the disproportionate affect that the teacher layoffs would have on communities in South Central L.A. By connecting with other teachers and the public I hoped to somehow shield my school and others from the tragedy to come. I implored the school board to “Don’t Forget South Central” and began to write in earnest about what it means to be a teacher in a hard to staff school.

Avalon Boulevard is where my school, Los Angeles Academy, was located and because teaching is my identity, I called myself AvalonSensei.

I suppose before that I was BroadwaySensei when I worked at Bethune Middle School, and BaldwinHillsSensei before that. But now, I have ended my tenure at L.A. Academy. Am I still AvalonSensei?

Students and parents of mine know when I teach at a school, it is more than just a job. It is a profession in which I embrace with zeal and affection. Those are MY students and I will fight for the best for them. The parents are my partners because we are a team committed to their children’s success.

But am I still AvalonSensei?

Starting this fall, I will be a teacher at Taft Charter High School in Woodland Hills, CA, a school in the Los Angeles Unified School District, but worlds apart from South Central L.A. Students there are high schoolers in their last years of childhood, almost young adults really, getting ready to enter our society full of challenges unlike anything seen in recent times. They will need guidance and support, and knowledge of how to navigate the world with kindness and empathy. And I, will throw myself into work like I have each of the 23 years prior to this one.

As I get ready to start work later this month, I will conclude 3 months of intense lesson planning, resource gathering, and content training. My daughter and husband will help me decorate my room. And I will start my 24th year of teaching full of excitement and anticipation for what my 200 students and I will achieve together.

I should no longer be AvalonSensei. My new students deserve the same dedication that all 4405 have received. @WinnetkaSensei seems like the logical handle (and it’s available).  But here’s the thing; I can’t forget how brave my students are and have been. How through the toughest of circumstances they rose through the challenges and fought for a better life. I will serve many communities and organizations in different capacities, but I will never be prouder of the work I have done on the South Side.

Who is AvalonSensei? It is me.


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