10 Years at IslandWood: Treneicia Gardner

In August, TAF’s Fellows will return to the Martinez Fellowship’s annual three-day summer retreat where teachers of color receive professional development, community support, and participate in invigorating sessions. For the last 10 years, the retreat has been held at IslandWood, an environmental education center on Brainbridge Island, WA, and has become a tradition that our Fellows to look forward to.

To celebrate, we’re highlighting one Fellow from each of Martinez Fellowship’s ten cohorts.

Meet Treneicia Gardner of Cohort 2, a kindergarten and first grade teacher at Leschi Elementary of Seattle Public Schools.

TAF: What was one win or winning moment this past school year?

Treneicia:  I had a few winning moments this year, both professionally and with students. Professionally, I received my National Board Certification. I also accepted a job offer and will begin next year as a Star Mentor for Seattle Public Schools (SPS). I will work one on one with first year teachers to guide, coach, and mentor as they begin their teaching career in SPS!

With my students, i have a few wins. I direct the k-5 school play. This was the first year we performed at Langston Hughes performing arts center and the kids knocked it out of the park! It was a win because students who usually found themselves in “trouble” had a different way to express their creativity. Students who were too shy to talk in class performed in front of 350 people! Students new to our school were able to make friends and connections. More than half of the students had never been in a play and were given an opportunity to try something new. It was truly incredible!

Secondly, I loop with my students so I have an opportunity to get to know them really well. Last year one of my students hated reading. They refused to read in the classroom, didn’t participate in small group activities and didn’t willingly read with their family at home. This year, that same student was eager to participate in reading groups, chose phonics works for independent practice, volunteered to read with buddies in other classes, and asked daily if they could borrow books to take home. About a week ago, that student’s mom came up to me and gave me a huge hug! She said that she now has to take books away at night so her kid can go to bed. On the way home her kid talks about all the books they read at school. The student wants to read for family members and their confidence is through the roof!

TAF: Why did you want to become a teacher, and why are you still a teacher?

Treneicia:  I became and am still a teacher for many reasons. Growing up in a city with a predominately African American population, I didn’t have a teacher that looked like me until high school. I remember feeling so proud to see someone who I identified with and who I felt could relate to me socially and emotionally.

As I talked to other people, I realized that so many students of color had never had a teacher that looked like them in their entire schooling. I decided that I wanted to be a role model for students who I share racial and ethnic identities. I wanted to be that person that students of color could talk to, to advocate for them, and who could understand and relate to them.

In addition, I wanted white students to encounter a person of color who was knowledgeable, and hopefully chip away at the stereotypes and prejudgments that may exist. I still feel this way.

TAF: What do you with the world knew about being a teacher of color?

Treneicia: I want the world to know that having teachers of color in the classroom benefits ALL students!

TAF: What is missing from public education today?

Treneicia: This is a really hard question. One thing that is missing in public education is training on how to help students who are affected by and dealing with trauma. I think it’s so important to help teachers and students understand the impact that trauma has psychologically and emotionally and how that can affect who students trust and how they learn.

“I realized that so many students of color had never had a teacher that looked like them in their entire schooling. I decided that I wanted to be a role model for students who I share racial and ethnic identities.”

TAF’s Martinez Fellowship Program recruits and retains teachers of color in Washington State. Founded in 2008, its 151 Fellows impact over 9,100 students by providing representation and creating equitable academic environments.

By 2038, TAF plans to add over 2,400 teachers of color to the fellowship. Learn more about the Martinez Fellowship.

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