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Saving Students Is the Responsibility of Every Adult

Teacher Provides More Than Academics

By Wendy Rice, high school teacher, Ferndale, Washington

Wendy Rice in her classroom.Jenna was 14 years old when she came to the alternative school where I taught. After two short months, she dropped out of school and ran away to live on the streets of Seattle. For some reason, she continued to call and tell me she was OK. I, in turn, informed her parents.

One day, her parents and I met Jenna at a restaurant in a rough part of Seattle. This lovely girl had turned into a urine-smelling junky. Her parents kidnapped her that day and took her to a treatment facility in another state. After a series of halfway houses and other treatments, she returned to high school and graduated. She also went on to finish a bachelor’s degree from an alternative college.

Today, she is clean and sober, married and living in Oregon, where she works in the art community. That was 11 years ago, my first year teaching alternative education. Since then, countless others have sat in my classroom, each seeking more than an education. Most have wanted someone simply to listen to them.

The days of sending a troubled child to talk with their counselor are over. Today, it is the responsibility of every adult in the lives of young people to stop, look, and listen. If we don’t, we will continue to lose our children to poverty, abuse, and as dropouts.

If each teacher, paraeducator, bus driver, food service worker, and secretary listened to one child who appears to be struggling, it could change lives.