Limited seats still available at select Ascend schools for the 2023-24 school year! Call or text 347-227-6070 for more information.

Limited seats still available at select Ascend schools for the 2023-24 school year! Call or text 347-227-6070 for more information.

  • Careers

Teaching is My Calling and Brooklyn Ascend is My Community

Suewayne Burke

April 26, 2023

Para leer esta publicación en español, haga clic aquí.

I did not set out to become a teacher, but the universe speaks in mysterious ways because I now know that teaching in Brooklyn for Ascend is my calling.

My family and I immigrated to Brooklyn from Jamaica when I was in the third grade. It was initially a bit of a culture shock. Fortunately, we lived in a Caribbean neighborhood in East Brooklyn where cousins and family friends made me feel at home. Brooklyn is an incredible place to grow up. I came into contact with people of so many different backgrounds.

I had many teachers in middle and high school of Caribbean heritage who got to know me and took an interest in my future. While attending a specialized high school in Brooklyn focused on legal studies, I became interested in pursuing a career in law. Encouraged by my mom and teachers, I applied and was accepted to my dream school–Spelman College in Atlanta.

My career path took a different turn while attending college in Atlanta. In the summer after my senior year, exactly 3 months after graduating, someone close to me was arrested in a case of mistaken identity. An innocent young black man was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. His lawyers told him to plead guilty to get a short sentence–even though he was innocent. The injustice of it all infuriated me. I helped him fight the case, and, after a year, the charges were dismissed and he was able to move on.

While I had read case studies in college about the criminal justice system, it was deeply upsetting to experience the systemic racism in our U.S. legal system firsthand. Disillusioned about the legal profession, I decided to explore other careers where I could make a difference.

After graduating from Spelman, I noticed a preschool in my Atlanta neighborhood with a big Jamaican flag outside the building. One day, I introduced myself to a staff person as a Spelman graduate and asked if they were hiring. I received a job offer on the spot. Once I started teaching pre-K, I felt like I belonged among children in the classroom.

Back in Brooklyn two years later, I applied for a teaching job at Brooklyn Ascend Lower School. I loved that Ascend’s schools were exclusively in Brooklyn and was impressed by its mission to support student empowerment.

I remember being nervous before my demo teaching lesson as part of my job interview. Could I make the jump from pre-K to kindergarten? On the day of my demo lesson, everyone at Ascend was so friendly and encouraging. Many of the teachers I met shared my Caribbean heritage. When offered the job, I jumped at the opportunity.

Seven years later, I am still teaching in the same Ascend classroom where I taught my first demo lesson.

At Ascend, I love the support you receive as a teacher. Everyone is looking out for one another, and everyone shares teaching materials. Professional development is not just happening at scheduled times; it happens every day. Teachers are always asking each other for feedback. How would you handle this? How would you teach this?

Brooklyn Ascend is such an important community to me that I decided to enroll my daughter at the school for kindergarten next year. I want my daughter to grow up with the Ascend family.

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