"Every professional should mentor someone. That is the great advantage of the trades in particular, you are learning from people who made mistakes and they are honest about the challenges they’ve faced. With that knowledge, the students can be educated so much faster. Those mentorship connections are what get students to the next level professionally and personally.”
Mr. Jenkins was recognized as the perfect fit for ACE because of his natural integration of project-based learning and passion for recreating the student experience. He views ACE as a channel to address equity issues in the community and challenge the typical classroom experience. As a math teacher at Warrensville Heights, the school he graduated from, he knew of an old abandoned pool on-site. He took his students to the abandoned pool and asked them to brainstorm what could be done with this space. For inspiration, he took his class to a community garden, a concept none of them had been exposed to. Mr. Jenkins saw firsthand the dramatic results of how this type of learning process could affect more students. He explained, “I saw myself as a math teacher until then. Following that I was offered a job teaching tech integration with more project-based units at the middle and high school. Years later, I was asked to be the advisor of ACE and I was intrigued. I saw this as an opportunity to bring so much more to the students.”
“I have a difficult time looking at curriculum where I mostly have to talk, that is not how kids learn. I am constantly pushing the envelope on why a lesson plan has to look a certain way. I like to be more innovative with it, with more hands-on programs. Maker spaces is a solution to increase student engagement and innovation. I am a proponent of all schools having a maker space of their own.” Ah yes
As a STEM and Engineering teacher at Warrensville Heights and Upward Bound, a member of the Baha’i Faith; working towards race unity, a member of Leaders for Equity in Shaker Heights, a Board member of the Warrensville Alumni Foundation and father of three children, Mr. Jenkins still finds time to make ACE a priority and continues coming back year after year because of the program’s success. “I get so much value from learning wherever I show up. I never know who I am going to meet or who is going to take my knowledge or job opportunity to the next level. It is the same for ACE students, they always need to be receptive and ready to share their pitch on why they should take something to the next level. They just need to show up. The students get so much out of learning from individuals within different career paths and asking them how they got started. These students have access to opportunities they never would have before. I keep data of who ends up going where and what they pursue.”
Who inspired you to become a mentor/teacher?
My mom and Mr. Provita.My mom was a math teacher a long time ago before she decided to stay at home with her children. Mr. Protiva was my math teacher, he was funny, down to earth and pushed us really hard. After having him I thought I could really do this.
In terms of mentoring, I’d like to thank WHCSD Superintendent, Donald Jolly, for bringing ACE to Warrensville. Also, Ariane Kirkpatrick, our lead mentor from the AKA Team, who is also a Warrensville alumnus, brings her passion and expertise, to all participants. She inspired me to be an advisor and take our ACE mentoring programs to another level.
Why do you mentor?
I mentor in order to help Warrensville graduates have their personal dreams come true. I love to watch students grow through the program. I recently had a student that was at risk of not graduating high school but had made some great connections within the program. He was always getting business cards during sessions and field trips. With dedication, nurturing and sometimes being a pest in his ear, he was able to graduate high school and pursue a trade from one of his connections.
Another student had a heart to heart conversation with me about whether to go to college or do something untraditional that is more hands-on. With some guidance, he interned at Coleman Spohn and is now taking classes at Tri-C.
What is your most memorable moment during the ACE Program?
Winning first place in only our second year. There were other memorable moments as well, such as visiting the Q and getting a tour of everything. The kids were fascinated by the construction of it all, including how all the windows were hung.
Making connections with others that help with our projects, such as the Warrensville Economic Development Department, is always memorable. Anytime we make connections with others in the community is memorable. Our ACE project this year was a bridge that connects the high school to the new elementary school. Individuals on the actual construction project came in and spoke to the students and suggested to us what we could do. Charlie Izzo, the project manager on the current elementary school project from Infinity, expressed to the students he thought a bridge was a great idea.
Honestly, I feel anything we design in the classroom is feasible. I always ask how we can bring these types of project features in the real world moving forward. Seeing the entire process is valuable, I wish so many more people had access to this so they can see they are cared about and have these opportunities.