“I didn’t think I was a leader! I didn’t think I could make an impact,” says Tanaya Reed ’19, a PreK-4 and Special Education PreK-8 major.
At IU, education majors start observing classrooms in their sophomore year, which is earlier than some universities require. Tanaya had a head start in developing her leadership skills in the classroom based on best practices and activities from veteran teachers.
Once she began observing classes at St. Francis de Sales School in Philadelphia, she felt drawn to the children who faced special challenges, such as learning English as a second language. As she helped them with reading, she thought, “Wow, this is what I’m meant to do.”
Her joy in the work and in the children must have touched her students. One of them told her, “Miss Reed, you’re one of the best teachers ever!”
Tanaya smiled and thought, “Thank you—but I’m not an official teacher just yet!”
She went on to complete her student teaching at St. Francis, and the school liked her so much that they recently hired her as a co-teacher for the second grade, even though she is still completing her bachelor’s degree.
With the excellent training she has received in IU’s education program, and even in extra-curricular activities, such as community service, Tanaya is well prepared for teaching.
“You’re not just a teacher, you have so many other occupations,” she says. Teachers are also counselors, mentors, cheerleaders, maybe even stand-in parents. Tanaya says the community service she has done with IU has helped her to take on these additional roles with her students and meet their needs in a more holistic way. She volunteered with Immaculata’s campus ministry staff to help at an after-school program, not only helping kids with homework, but also playing with them on the playground and having real conversations with them. These activities are similar to what she does now as a second grade co-teacher, tending to her students’ overall well-being.
She is also observing a special education class at a vocational high school in Philadelphia. “It can be very sad there for me, seeing some of the kids,” she says. “I know we can do better. It’s just heart-breaking, how they give up on themselves so easily. But I have faith in them. We’ll see what we can do!”
She adds, “Sometimes you have moments when you think, ‘I wish I could just take this student home with me!’” But she knows it isn’t her job to meet all of their needs. “They have to go through their own journey,” she says, “but you can still be that shining light in their life.”
With her combination of both compassion and strength, Tanaya is undeniably a light for her students. “I try to teach them the best I can about life and about initiative and taking responsibility for your own actions. Because you’re in charge of your life.”
Tanaya speaks from her own experience of taking responsibility. When she had an unexpected opportunity to become the president of IU’s African-American Cultural Society (AACS), she thought, “I don’t know what to do!” But a student involvement staff member supported and mentored her.
“And we had the best year!” Tanaya says. “Teamwork makes the dream work.”
Under Tanaya’s leadership, AACS held a creative event where students could express themselves through art and music. Tanaya and her fellow AACS leaders also hosted the group’s annual Gospel Explosion, where people from the greater Philadelphia area come to IU to sing, dance, and share good food. And one of the best events of the year was the group’s trip to Baltimore to see the Blacks in Wax Museum and then visit the Inner Harbor.
“We did a lot!” Tanaya says.
She did, and her time at Immaculata helped her to see her leadership abilities. “There’s so much at Immaculata that I’m happy about, that I’m blessed to have,” she says.