Growing up in Southern Indiana, Julie Payne always loved reading and writing. In high school, she volunteered as a mentor and tutor. But it took her a while to settle on teaching English as a career path.
Julie’s older sister attended Perdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana, and encouraged Julie and her twin sister to join her there. “When I got to college, I didn’t really know what I wanted to do,” Julie recalled. “My older sister persuaded me to major in speech language pathology because of the career opportunities, so my twin sister and I both started in that major but after a semester we switched out.”
Reflecting on her high school education, Julie remembered a standout English teacher who, Julie said, “made me a better reader and writer.” So Julie changed her major to English education. She was a student teacher at a high school in Lafayette, Indiana, and completed a summer internship in San Francisco with Breakthrough Collaborative. “I taught fifth grade English and I loved that,” Julie said. “It was a really great experience that gave me a lot of technical and pedagogical skills, since Perdue had really focused on content.”
After graduating, Julie applied to Urban Teachers DC. “I knew I wanted to move to another city, I wanted to get my master’s, and I wanted more student teaching time under someone who could give me more direction,” Julie recalled. Urban Teachers connected her with IDEA, where she worked as an Urban Teachers resident in school year 2019-2020, and then moved up to an Urban Teachers Fellow this school year.
Throughout her tenure with Urban Teachers and at IDEA, she has been taking classes at Johns Hopkins University, where she will graduate in May with a master’s degree in secondary English education and special education. “A lot of what I learned through Urban Teachers and at Johns Hopkins, I wouldn’t have happened upon by myself. It’s great to have an advanced degree, but I would not have been as good at my job if I hadn’t had those moments of someone teaching me, so that’s what I'd like to turn around and do for my students.”
At IDEA Julie has been paired with English teacher Lauren Norfleet, first as an assistant and now as a full co-teacher. “In my graduate classes I learn a lot of theoretical things, and then I can try them out the next day at IDEA. Being in the classroom with Ms. Norfleet I’ve realized that there’s an idea, and then there’s realistically what actually happens and what you do then.”
“The biggest challenge is classroom management,” Julie explained. “There are routines and procedures you can set up for the students, but you have to put in the time to build the relationships and understand the individual students. I learned a lot from Ms. Norfleet about how to build routines in a way that allows you to be respectful of the student but also get them to do what you want. In my graduate classes, we talked about relationship building but I never saw it in action until I was in the classroom at IDEA.”
This year as a co-teacher, Julie has also taken on case management for scholars with disabilities. “It’s been a huge learning curve,” she said. “I learned foundational skills last year, but this year I’ve taken on more responsibility for IEPs. I’ve talked with Ms. Pernell [IDEA’s Director of Exceptional Education Sybil Pernell] a lot and gone to a lot of training.
Even after the challenges of a virtual school year, Julie plans to continue to teach at IDEA for the foreseeable future. “IDEA has been a great place for me to learn, and as a new teacher to have that support system is invaluable. I don’t know if I would've gotten that at a different school.”