Skip to Content

Helping Students Who Are Stumbling

Staff Searches for Ways to Meet Students' Needs

By Bernard Nabozny, high school teacher, Jackson, Michigan

Helping students who are stumbling on the road to graduation is our "soul" purpose at Tomlinson Education Center, an alternative high school in Jackson, Michigan. Ours are the intractably truant, the probationary, the pregnant, and the discipline problems.


The teachers learn these young people's stories—the missing childhoods, the abuse, the low income/low education history—and we all search for ways to reach as many of them as we can. Those students in turn find a trust most of them have never known, and make some progress in their stay with us.

I've been here nine years, and have seen teachers go to students' homes to bring them to school and stay late to help them with missing work—or just to talk. Teachers make calls every school day to wake or motivate certain students who need someone to hold them accountable. I've given a student my glasses when his were broken in a domestic dispute.

Last year, the whole staff worked into the summer to present the school board with a new block schedule, so our students could earn 16 credits a year and have the chance to get caught up. We do these things on top of our regular teaching load to catch the ones that have slipped through the cracks, all the while struggling to abide by the misguided NCLB restrictions and regulations.

It's all worth it when I think of the ones who make it. Jenny had always liked art class at her high school, but she was asked not to return when she became pregnant. At first she thought it would be impossible to graduate as a young mom, but she was thrilled to find that our school had daycare and teachers who didn’t judge her. She applied herself, took as many art classes as her credits would allow, and even became my teaching assistant for a time. When she graduated, she wrote a note to the school board praising our program, and singled me out for giving her the opportunity to be successful.

About the Author
Bernard Nabozny teaches art and English at Tomlinson School, in the Jackson Public Schools in Jackson, Michigan.