Flourishing in New Orleans

October 12, 2016

When Margie Scribner ’10 and Leah Krandel ’09 made the decision to move to New Orleans together, they never dreamed they would end up working together too. Scribner began working as a teacher in Teach for America, and Krandel started in on a degree in social work at Tulane University. But when Krandel graduated and took a job at George Washington Carver, a new charter school in New Orleans, Scribner got drawn in too.

After attending a few collaborative meetings as a guest with Krandel about how to get the school up and running, Scribner was impressed with the fun, flexible approach the team was taking to setting up the school. Before she knew it, she had taken a position as a math teacher. “You know, I never considered myself an educator, but this work is so special and unique that I can really throw my whole self into it,” says Scribner.

At George Washington Carver, teachers and staff collaborate weekly on new ideas to better serve their students. Recently promoted to director of curriculum and instruction, Scribner is constantly thinking of new ways to make academic success achievable. “The great thing about working in a charter network is that we have so much flexibility,” says Scribner. “If something isn’t working for our students, we can change it right away.” Scribner and Krandel are always looking for ways to reduce students’ stress and boost their confidence. “When a kid who hasn’t gotten good grades before scores well on a test, it can completely change their identity,” Scribner says. “All of a sudden they see themselves as someone who can be academically successful.”

Krandel, who works as the director of mental health services, believes strongly in the school’s commitment to helping students manage stress, behavior issues, and mental health problems without just sending them home to deal on their own. “We have a restorative center on campus, and students can go there for help without even having to leave school,” Krandel says. “So it’s less time out of class and more time helping them develop healthy coping skills.” Another unique way Krandel tries to keep student stress low is by developing fun “campaigns” during testing weeks. Students from each class can pick a theme and dress up in costumes (such as clowns for a circus theme), and get rewarded for good work with theme-centered prizes and activities.

As much as they love and believe in the work they’re doing at George Washington Carver, Krandel and Scribner also love that they get to work closely together like they did as students at Grinnell. “I think we amaze ourselves with how energized we are by this work, and to be able to share that with each other is really amazing,” says Krandel. “We love the kids, love the work, love New Orleans…it’s just all been such a wonderful experience so far!”

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