Blog | May 25, 2023

Keeping the Spotlight on Students

By Jazmin Sanders, Manager of School Support and Incubation

I majored in Exercise Science at Indiana University Bloomington. I was passionate about becoming a physical therapist and helping people achieve fitness and health goals. As a lifelong athlete and fitness buff, I naturally got fired up about that aspect of the healthcare industry and felt it was somewhere I could have a rewarding career. 

One of my first hands-on experiences was as a rehab technician at St. Vincent on the northside of Indianapolis. I loved getting to help people walk after surgery and guiding people through the steps of rehab. But the hospital setting was heavy. I was surrounded by sickness and physical pain that, for me, inevitably took a mental toll. 

I started to wonder if this was really what I wanted to do long-term. While working as a rehab technician, I was also a volleyball coach for a local public school. I loved working with students through athletics and the longer I coached, the more interested I became in working more closely with students. 

Impacting Students Earlier in Their Education Journeys

Something I noticed during my time coaching was just how many challenges students were facing. I believe at least some of those challenges were due to a lack of quality school experiences before they got to high school. They were not on-track to be prepared for adulthood in just a couple of years and it felt like what happened to them, or rather didn’t happen, in K-8 was behind it. 

In response, I thought that if I could guide them from a younger age before they got to high school, they could be in a fundamentally different place come freshman year. Thoughts like that kept circulating while I kept working at St. Vincent. I didn’t do anything about them at first. Even when people began encouraging me to become a teacher, it didn’t feel like there was a clear pathway. 

But, as they say, the internet is always listening. Out of seemingly nowhere, I got a pop-up ad one night while I was scrolling online. The ad was for Indianapolis Teaching Fellows (ITF). I ignored it that first time but in the following days it kept popping up. This ad was following me as if it wouldn’t take no for an answer. So I finally looked into it more, found out what Indianapolis Teaching Fellows was and how I could become a teacher through their alternative pathway.

I applied. I got accepted. I felt trepidation at switching careers entirely. No matter, I decided to go for it. After completing ITF’s initial training, I taught Kindergarten for a few years in different public charter schools on the eastside of Indianapolis. One complicating factor was that the pandemic hit during my first year of teaching. I hadn’t even completed a full year of teaching and now I was trying to figure out how to be an effective educator in the face of unprecedented challenges.

Facing Burnout and Finding a Way to Continue in Education

I’ll be honest, burnout was real for me. A hard job suddenly felt impossible. The support and resources that schools, students, and teachers needed were not present all the time or at the level that new teachers like me needed. Leaving the classroom was a tough decision. 

Despite feeling burned out by how the pandemic shook up education, I still wanted to make an impact on students. Once you work with students firsthand, I think it’s almost impossible to not want to dedicate your career to improving education. It becomes personal and stays personal even if you don’t lead a classroom. The Mind Trust offered the perfect fit in that regard. 

Once you work with students firsthand, I think it’s almost impossible to not want to dedicate your career to improving education.

Jazmin Sanders

I love how being at The Mind Trust pushes me to see myself as a leader. At the start of this year, that manifested with me enrolling in Butler University’s Experiential Program for Preparing School Principals (EPPSP). While it has “principal” in the name, their program is all about preparing people for school leadership and roles that go beyond the principal title. 

I really debated whether I wanted to go back to school while working full-time. Yet from my short time at The Mind Trust, I knew I wanted to acquire the skills and knowledge of a school leader. I don’t know if I’ll ever become a school leader, but at least this way the door will be open for a return to a school setting someday as a leader.

The Mind Trust is All About Meeting Needs

Being at The Mind Trust and having been in the classroom has given me the up-close view and the 10,000 foot view of education in Indianapolis. I saw needs firsthand and now I am seeing how The Mind Trust works hard to meet those needs at the school and classroom level. This school year, that has looked like providing SAT tutoring for high school students. We are also supporting a cohort of educators in receiving Sheltered Instruction and Observation Protocol training monthly throughout this spring.

When I think about our mission and vision, I know that we stand for what we say and we make good on the promises laid out in those statements. As we continue to expand what is possible for Indianapolis students, it’s a passion of mine to keep the spotlight on students. After all, we are just setting the table. Students are the ones who actually put in the work and take advantage of the opportunities set before them. 

Today’s students are talented, fearless, and tenacious. They are tired of being held back by unjust systems. They are ready to achieve. I’m thankful to be somewhere that is doing everything possible to clear the path ahead for our city’s students to pursue their dreams.