Teacher Feature: Jovanda Warren, City Arts & Prep Public Charter School

Jovanda Warren leads her classroom at City Arts & Prep Public Charter School (City Arts) with a perfect balance of command and respect, simultaneously implementing  the lesson plans of the day with great dexterity. In her seventh year of teaching, Jovanda has clearly mastered the art of managing a middle school classroom while maintaining her  passion for education. An Illinois native and graduate of the University of Illinois, she landed in DC after teaching high school in Houston with Teach For America. We  recently had the opportunity to visit her classroom during a lesson on the rubric portion of the One World Program, and are  excited to feature Jovanda in this month’s Teacher Feature!

Despite tutoring and working with kids throughout her college career, the idea of being a teacher wasn’t at the forefront for Jovanda, until one of her mentors suggested Teach for America. “I never thought I could be a teacher,” she said, sharing the story of how she ended up here in DC, “but when I thought about the most important times in my own life, there had always been a teacher involved.” She was placed in Houston, where she taught high school English for three years before moving to Washington, DC and transitioning into teaching middle school at public charter schools. When asked about the difference between working with middle and high school students, Jovanda explained that “high school students can understand what you’re saying and are able to have conversations about real life, but it can be harder to reach them if they aren’t on grade level, or have already decided they don’t like school. In middle school, you can still connect with kids—there’s still time to change their minds about education.”

This is Jovanda’s first year of teaching the One World Program, but she appreciates how it has  helped her students change their perspectives on things like poverty and police brutality. (At the time of writing this piece, her students had not yet started writing their own essays, but for a glimpse into one of Jovanda’s classes, check out The View from the Classroom: City Arts & Prep Public Charter School.) Like any other teacher, Jovanda acknowledges the challenges entailed at times, especially when students have difficulty with reading at grade level and writing with basic sentence structures. But she is  inspired by her students, noting that “it can be a struggle, but I have amazing kids. I can only do what I do when my students come alive! This group of kids has experienced so much, but they are still here, trying their best.”

When she is  not teaching at City Arts, Jovanda is active in her community, serving as co-chair of the DC Education Coalition for Change, where she supports the organization’s mission of uniting parents, educators, students, and members of the community to take action on issues of education, social justice, and the well-being of  children in DC. Jovanda’s passion for education and her students is remarkable, and her dedication to educational equity and empowering student voice is inspiring. We are looking forward  to reading and publishing her students’ essays in the coming months! Stay tuned!

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