First Bell

First Bell
2:54 am
Mon April 21, 2014

First Bell: In a Time of Racial Tension, Quarterback's Team Wasn't With Him

Eric Reed as a young first lieutenant with his wife Julia at a military officers function in 1989 at an Army base in Garlsted, Germany. They went to Istrouma High School together.
Credit Courtesy of Eric Reed

The First Bell series is a growing collection of stories from students, parents, and educators about pivotal experiences in education. To tell your story, email amy@wrkf.org with "My First Bell" in the subject line or tweet with the hashtag #MyFirstBell.

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Eric Reed was the first black quarterback at his elementary, middle, and high school when the Baton Rouge public schools were being integrated.

Epithets were used against him more than once.

Reed’s junior year at predominantly white Istrouma High School, 1974, was a turning point. The night after a race riot at the school, the football team played the last game of the regular season against all-black McKinley.

“Anytime Istrouma played McKinley, I happened to be the target of a lot of trash talk, because I’m the one who didn’t go to McKinley or Capitol, I chose to go to Istrouma, so I was -- the term they used back then -- the ‘oreo’, you know, I sold out.”

Both teams needed the win to get to the playoffs, but Reed says he didn’t have the usual fire in his belly. Istrouma lost 7 to 6.


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First Bell
3:34 am
Mon April 14, 2014

First Bell: Twin Sisters, Separate Schools

Fraternal twin sisters Megan (left) and Kendall Smith.

 

The First Bell series is a growing collection of stories from students, parents, and educators about pivotal experiences in education. To tell your story, email amy@wrkf.org with "My First Bell" in the subject line or tweet with the hashtag #MyFirstBell.

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Judging from the way that the fraternal twin sisters laugh and finish each other’s sentences, you might think Megan and Kendall Smith had never left each other’s side. 

But, as Kendall told fellow LSU student Morgan Louviere, they started going to separate schools — and leading separate lives — in the third grade. 

Megan got into a private school and Kendall didn’t. 

Megan says they didn’t really get different “educations” as a result, but getting their education “differently” did make them who they are. 

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First Bell
8:39 am
Mon April 7, 2014

First Bell: English Teacher Shatters Adolescent Conception of Masculinity

Tim Parrish

 The First Bell series is a growing collection of stories from students, parents, and educators about pivotal experiences in education. To tell your story, email amy@wrkf.org with "My First Bell" in the subject line or tweet with the hashtag #MyFirstBell.

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Parrish went to Istrouma High School in Baton Rouge during the mid ‘70s.

He was a jock with a lot of anger, caught up in the racial violence of the time.

And then he walked into Fred Shirley’s English class

Shirley was the teacher who would introduce Parrish to counter-cultural books like the Great Gatsby and Slaughter House Five.

And he showed Parrish there was a different way to be a man. 

 


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First Bell
5:18 am
Mon March 31, 2014

First Bell: For Her Youngest, Learning the ABCs Wasn't Easy as A-B-C

Beverly Ortego, an interventionist at Hosanna Christian Academy, with a reading student.
Credit Sue Lincoln

The First Bell series is a growing collection of stories from students, parents, and educators about pivotal experiences in education. To tell your story, email amy@wrkf.org with "My First Bell" in the subject line or tweet with the hashtag #MyFirstBell.

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LaToya Johnson is the mother of three boys.

Early on, in daycare and preschool, Johnson's older two learned their ABCs and how to write.

"So by the time I got to my youngest and he got to pre-k and he wasn’t able to recognize his alphabet, I was like, ok, something was wrong." 

That turned out to be the start of a journey that ultimately led Johnson to enroll her son Micah in a private school — Hosanna Christian Academy in Baton Rouge — through the state voucher program.
 


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First Bell
5:41 am
Mon March 24, 2014

First Bell: It Took a Hurricane to Get this Student Reading

Chris Vasser

The First Bell series is a growing collection of stories from students, parents, and educators about pivotal experiences in education. To tell your story, email amy@wrkf.org with "My First Bell" in the subject line or tweet with the hashtag #MyFirstBell.

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Vasser was not a good student in 2005.

When Hurricane Katrina forced him to move out of New Orleans and transfer to Catholic High in Baton Rouge, he had to turn it around.


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First Bell
4:00 am
Mon March 17, 2014

First Bell: State Superintendent's Lunch Hour Lessons

State Superintendent John White

The First Bell series is a growing collection of stories from students, parents, and educators about pivotal experiences in education. To tell your story, email amy@wrkf.org with "My First Bell" in the subject line or tweet with the hashtag #MyFirstBell.

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When state Superintendent John White was playing sports in high school, he says the poverty of the kids who lived a mile or two away from him came into view.

"I think there was something always, in a way, powerful, about being in a low-income community’s home court. Because, when you come in with your nice uniforms and, you know, you practice everyday in a nice gym or on a nice field, and you play guys whose uniforms don’t quite look the way they should, or the gym’s in bad shape, and the field is also a soccer, also a baseball, also a something else field, you get a very material view of what inequity looks like."

White found the disparity was something he couldn’t turn his back on.

He now oversees the education of Louisiana’s roughly 700,000 public school students. But he started his career teaching English in a high-poverty high school in Jersey City, NJ.

He says he never considered a career in private education, even though he went to an elite all-boys school — St. Albans in Washington, D.C. — from elementary school all the way through 12th grade. And he loved it.


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First Bell
3:39 am
Mon March 17, 2014

First Bell: Resounding Experiences in Education

We have all had experiences in education that have shaped our ideas about teaching and learning, that have shaped who we are.

For state Superintendent John White, it was that moment when he came to appreciate that what happens during lunch hour is just as important as what happens during class time. For LaToya Johnson, it was the moment when she realized that learning the ABCs wasn't as easy as A-B-C for her youngest son. For Eric Reed, it was when he realized his teammates weren't cheering with the black students during a high school pep rally.

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