It feels like a million years ago that I walked into a diner to meet the woman who would become my supervising teacher. I was halfway through my final semester of grad school, pursuing a Master’s in Education, and all that was standing between me and graduation day was one more student teacher placement. I would spend eight weeks with Ms. Delatte in her 9th grade classroom in Newburgh, NY. I wasn’t sure what to expect- neither from her, nor the school district– but I had a keen sense that the experience would fall at one of the opposite ends of the spectrum. And I have pretty good intuition.
I won’t bore you with the mundane, day-to-day details of those eight weeks, but what you should know is this: Gina Delatte shaped nearly every aspect of the teacher and person I would become. To this day, every compliment I receive from students is a nod to her.
She taught me that being a teacher–being a leader– had almost nothing to do with what I had been studying for the past two years. All those Classroom Management tactics– reward systems and tallies on a blackboard– quickly struck me as ridiculous, comical. Ms. Delatte gave me the skinny: like your students, show them you like them, respect them, empower them, and you will get the same in return. That’s the secret.
She taught me how to create community. She showed me how to create a place where students wanted to be. She taught me how to turn my own setbacks and vulnerabilities and quirks into assets in the classroom, how to infuse my teaching with authenticity and, by doing so, giving my students permission to show up as they were. She taught me how to value each student, even the difficult ones, especially the difficult ones, and how to bring out the best in them. And she said to me, “My class will never the be the worst part of any student’s day.”
The things I learned from her spill into every aspect of my life and are the heart of the brand I am building. A brand that sees and celebrates people just as they are.
And, so, of course I named a bag after her.