Teacher Appreciation Week with Leslie Jacobs

Teacher Appreciation Week:

Leslie Jacobs/Tulane
Leslie Jacobs/Tulane

This week is National Teacher Appreciation Week. Who better to feature on Sam’s Dream Blog this week than Leslie Jacobs? Jacobs has helped to re-shape the New Orleans school system to the point that U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan called New Orleans the most improved school district in the country in 2011. Late last year, Forbes included Jacobs among the world’s seven most-powerful educators.

Sam’s Dream Blog: You’re a New Orleans native.  When did education of New Orleans youth become important to you?

Leslie Jacobs: I am a New Orleans native.  When I returned to New Orleans after college and the birth of my first child, I was looking to engage in something meaningful.  I became a business partner with an elementary school next to a housing development, which was one of the lowest performing schools in the city.

SDB: More than 60 percent of schools were failing before Hurricane Katrina. What was the effect of Katrina on student and teacher morale, and what got them hoping and believing again?

Leslie Jacobs: Public schools in New Orleans are much better than they were before the levees broke in 2005.  We are the most improved school district in the state.  Our dropout rate has plummeted.  More students are passing the state tests. Fewer schools are failing.  Why the change?  Many reasons:  The freedom and autonomy of public charter schools (close to 80 percent of students attend charter schools), the return of veteran teachers and principals along with many new ones, an embracing of a "no excuses" culture - the adults in the building need to find a way to overcome the challenges students bring with them to school. These are some of the key changes.

SDB: What’s your dream for New Orleans schools?

Leslie Jacobs: My dream and expectation is that New Orleans becomes a national "proof point"' that demonstrates to the country that we can successfully educate large numbers of poor and minority youth.

Who is a teacher in your life who you can say thank you to this Teacher Appreciation Week?