Stephanie Barard – Passionate About Helping Inner-City Kids
When Stephanie Barard graduated from the University of Houston, she knew she wanted to teach and she knew she wanted to work in inner-city public schools.
“These kids are part of an under-served population and I wanted to be a part of making a difference,” she said. “I wanted to make things better, even in a small way and give back to the community. These are kids who need a little more help, that extra caring hand and understanding to show them they can have a great future.”
Barard teaches high school science to 9th, 10th, 11th and 12th grade students; giving instruction in biology, chemistry, physics and environmental and aquatic sciences. She is in her second year at Camelot’s Richey Academy Transitional School. Students in this program have experienced disciplinary problems while in their home schools and were removed from their home campuses. Students from Richey will return to their home schools with improved behavior, attendance, and academics.
Most will be at Richey from 45 days to a year.
Barard said she likes the population of students she teaches in spite of the challenges and demands.
“You have to meet them where they are,” Barard said. “I know that sounds cliché but it’s the truth. These kids are referred here. Maybe they are in the ninth grade but aren’t reading at a ninth grade level. Maybe they were skipping a lot of classes or had some behavioral issues. You have to get into their world and blend them in. Most of them were labeled as this or that by their home schools. They come to us and are surprised that we treat them differently than their home schools. We build relationships with them, we extend the effort to establish a rapport, and then we are able to teach them.”
Barard said most of the students who pass through Richey Academy return and stay at their home campuses. The process of bringing the students up academically works through their home schools. Barard said Richey’s teachers have access to those details, so the students are being taught what they would have received at their home schools.
“My target as a teacher was always to be of benefit to minority inner city schools; what people call ‘The Hood’. One way we establish a relationship with the students is through Guided Group Interaction. It’s something that happens at the same time every day during school hours. We sit in a circle and we talk and listen. Usually we pick the topics but on Fridays the students get to choose the topic. I’ve had such interesting conversations with these young men and women. They really open up and that’s how we find out what’s really in their heads. Most of them have never had the opportunity to be heard and that’s what they really want and need.”
Barard said she remembered one student who came to Richey with behavioral problems. Academically he was doing pretty well except that he just didn’t want to go to school. He began dabbling in drugs, which was how he was referred to Richey. She said she built a relationship with him; they talked things through. When it was time for him to leave, he had a conversation with the school’s director, who later told her that the student said he really appreciated his time at Richey. He appreciated what the staff and teachers had done for him.
“I never would have known that if the director hadn’t told me. Hearing things like that from the students makes all the work we do worth the time and effort.”