'Being a social justice educator is a special calling'
After teaching for years in Jamaica at the largest Jesuit Secondary High in the Caribbean, Slaney Palmer moved to Chicago to further his education. He completed his bachelor’s degree in history at Loyola in May, and his desire to not only teach, but advocate for, his students drew him back to Loyola to pursue his MEd in Secondary Education.
What inspired you to become a teacher?
I would not classify my journey into teaching as inspirational in any sense because I do not have the conventional story that many have about amazing teachers they had growing up. Many of my teachers and I shared a mutual understanding that we existed in the same time and space for specific periods. So fundamentally, it was my experiences as a student that shaped my decision to become a teacher. Having had those experiences, I decided that my aim was never to allow any person that I was tasked with educating to only that relationship with myself.
What draws you specifically to secondary education?
The adolescent years are the most important in the life of a child. They go through puberty, have identity crises, and increasingly become more aware of themselves and who they are as a person. For me, the secondary level is the last line of defense, or that bridge for them to cross which scaffold them into their success.
Teaching for several years before moving to the US cemented that conviction. I also have had my fair share of personal tragedies and setbacks and I know that navigating through the adolescent years can be grueling. Having had all those experiences, I want to be in the position to help as much as I can and in the best way possible.
Talk about your summer as part of the program.
The summer sessions were very interesting and markedly different, but a wholesome experience. It was a great opportunity to be able to visit various institutions to get hands-on experience with the strategic partnerships that are out there or that we can create in our future practice. Being able to be on-site at a school to get a sense of what we are up against—the positives, the challenges, and also the school culture—is a real benefit. The dynamics of our group made it even more interesting. Having the opportunity to interact with people of various backgrounds and experiences added a very unique dimension to the experience.
How does the Jesuit philosophy influence what kind of teacher you would like to be?
The Jesuit philosophy on education calls us to see the discerning spirit of God in all things and reminds us that we must endeavor to do all things for the greater glory of God. With that in mind, I understand and acknowledge that being a social justice educator is a special calling. It is the acknowledgement that we are called to serve those who are in need, marginalized, and or oppressed. Our service must be universal, inclusive, diverse, and with a preferential option for advocacy for those who are at risk of being left behind.