Position: ESL Teacher
School: F. L. Schlagle High School
School District: Kansas City, Kansas Public Schools
City, State: Kansas City, KS
Joanna Schindel was nominated by her principal, Yolanda Thompson.
Mrs. Schindel educates many students who are new to the United States and have a limited understanding of the English language, the culture, and even of the process of education. She works relentlessly to ensure that these students’ learning experiences are specially tailored to meet their specific and unique learning needs.
Mrs. Schindel does more than merely acclimating and equipping students to function successfully in their new country. She doesn’t just teach students to read, write, and speak a new language - she helps students find their voices.
Mrs. Schindel was a founding member of an ongoing community-based project called “The Change Project.” Each year, as part of this project, students identify a problem in their community that they seek to solve over the course of the school year. The goal is to make a lasting, positive impact on their immediate community.
For one of these exhibitions, Mrs. Schindel’s students composed narratives about their experiences with immigration, in order to foster a greater understanding of the immigrant experience. Students’ stories spoke of their unimaginable trials coming to the United States and shared the hardships that drove their families to pursue a life in a new country. These narratives culminated in a spoken word event, during which students shared these experiences with a live audience, making connections with others who may not have had an opportunity to connect with these students. Like always, Mrs. Schindel supported her students every step of the way, helping them to develop confidence in themselves and in their identities. Students left the experience empowered, and were encouraged by their performances, knowing that sharing their stories made an impact on other people’s lives.
Mrs. Schindel is in her third year working on “The Change Project,” and although some of her students are new, all students tirelessly seek to improve the community in which they live and attend school. As a result of working with community partners and stakeholders like health agencies and even the District Attorney, students’ reading, writing, speaking, and thinking skills continue to be enhanced. These authentic learning experiences transform insecure students to confident students who eagerly self-advocate.
These are merely a few of the incredible opportunities that Mrs. Schindel provides students on a daily basis. Additionally, she is a gift to her colleagues, collaborating with them to provide support for students moving into non-sheltered classrooms as they learn other content area subjects. She is a warm spirit who genuinely desires to see all students succeed as they pursue their goals and dreams.
"Mrs. Schindel understands that, for our students, education determines the very trajectory of their future. Indeed, she views education as a “life or death” endeavor," said Thompson. "Everyone at F. L. Schlagle High School considers her to be a most outstanding teacher and advocate for her students and their families. Mrs. Schindel is the epitome of a LifeChanger!"