We design futures : Peg O’Neill

*CHAD teacher since 2003

After twelve years, friends sometimes ask me how can I stay committed to teaching kids at *CHAD?

Teaching is sometimes a thankless job. Many students come to *CHAD after years of attending poor public schools. Often they read several years behind their grade level. Many come from difficult inner city neighborhoods and many have problems at home. Every year we are expected to do more for them with fewer resources.

Despite all of the roadblocks, *CHAD students want to succeed at college and many dream of succeeding in design careers. For my kids, my hope is that our classroom is a refuge, a place where someone cares about them and whether they’re learning the skills they need to graduate. Sometimes the most important lessons and impact I have on students has nothing to do with the subject matter. It’s about building relationships, connecting with them, and being real with them. I stay because these kids need me — they need people who won’t give up on them, ever. They don’t need pity. They need empathy. And they need someone to hold them accountable for learning. I love seeing the excitement in a student’s eyes when he or she grasps a new concept.

Recently I ran into a former student, Jade Garner. She was thrilled that I remembered her and I was thrilled that she remembered me and her years at *CHAD with great fondness. There is nothing like knowing that every day you touch the lives of young people like Jade.