Ms. Twillman’s Quest to Grow Strong Humans

“My favorite part of the school day is any time a child is reading – hence my favorite quote. It’s from the song ‘I Can’ by the rapper Nas, and it’s hanging on the wall of my classroom as a reminder of what I expect my scholars to accomplish. I love seeing my kids find books that they love, and as they learn more through reading they’ll be better equipped to make that lyric their reality.”

In 2015, Michelle Gieg, then head of TFA’s Delta Summer Institute, recruited Hannah Twillman to teach at her new school in Louisiana, Democracy Prep Baton Rouge (DPBR). “I was really excited about Michelle’s plans for the school, and DP’s mission lined up with my motto for educating children – grow strong humans, not strong test-takers. Our school even leads a Read-a-Thon challenge to see how calm and focused kids can stay while reading in the midst of the most outlandish distractions. Once we had our marching band going in and out of classrooms, but the scholars kept on reading! That’s the essence of DP’s DREAM value “Discipline” and one of the most exciting things to witness as a DP teacher.”

Hannah always dreamed of being a teacher. Although she’d eventually earn a degree in English and Organizational Development, her knowledge of group dynamics and people management inadvertently gave her the early professional development needed for her teaching career.

“Joining TFA (Teach for America) was my way of jumping back into education, and my first two years combined was a real ‘experience’. I had to grow fast and I learned a lot during my time in a small rural town called Ascension Parish. Luckily with all my college lessons and some persistence, I fell in love with teaching and my school, and stuck with them both for four years.”

When asked what teachers can do to stay the course and reach high levels of student engagement, Hannah had two simple tips. “Be hungry: always seek help from others and any opportunity that positions you to grow professionally. Also, be humble: realize that there’s always something you can learn from students, parents and your co-workers. You NEVER know everything by yourself!”

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