When reflecting on her relationship with her students, Yukie Trevathan likens herself to a griot - an African storyteller. She learned the term in a high school literature class when her teacher said a storyteller “was not someone off the street who was able to come to the village and narrate the village’s story, it had to be passed from generation to generation.”
Trevathan grew up in the Edenwald housing projects in the Bronx section of New York City, and now teaches special education at a nearby high school. Specializing in English and history, she says that sharing her personal stories with her students often helps “hook” them and show them the benefits of an education. After her younger brother was murdered in 2001, she resolved to create a better future for herself. She went back to graduate school, earning degrees in school administration and special education.
Trevathan has a quiet patience in the classroom, and is as quick to smile and encourage students as she is to discipline them. When she was younger, she avoided confrontation by using poetry as an outlet for her feelings. Now, she uses literature to guide her students the way it guided her. She teaches her students to measure success by their educational achievement, rather than by expensive clothes or fancy cars.
“If you get a diploma or degree,” she says, “no one can take that from you.”
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