#MNPSVoices: Jeanne Rowan, Teacher

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Nestled in the hallways of a bustling and hectic middle school sits a classroom focused on creating a nurturing and peaceful environment for students.

This intentional environment offers a calm space of inclusivity where the lights are dimmed and classical music wafts through the room. It is the classroom of Jeanne Rowan, an English Learner teacher at Stratford STEM Magnet High School.

Rowan has designed her classroom as a way to not only encourage teaching and learning, but to inspire students to tap into their own individuality – a practice she has employed since her first year in the classroom more than 20 years ago.

“My first job is to make my classroom peaceful,” said Rowan, also a Metro Nashville Public Schools graduate. “When students are calm and peaceful, then they can learn.”

Many teachers seek to lift the voices of their students; the same is true for Rowan. She recognizes the importance her classroom environment can make on a student’s life.

“I want to be a welcoming voice for students during their middle school experience,” she said. “I want them to have a classroom where they feel safe and at peace while they are learning each day.”

Her passion for serving English learner students was realized decades ago when she backpacked around the world for six months after graduating from college.

“I love learning about different cultures and respecting [students’] cultures,” Rowan said. “I want to help them navigate middle school.”

Just like her defining moment abroad, Rowan also experienced a defining moment in the classroom early in her career which forever shaped her educational perspective.

During her first year in the classroom Rowan struggled to provide extra support to seemingly difficult or disruptive students, until one student opened her eyes through his own unexpected talent - one discovered through a creative project. It was in that moment, after sharing a connection with a student who challenged her all year, she realized her personal guiding rule: find something to genuinely like about each student.

Rowan knew from that moment finding her own unique connection to every student was one of the keys to educational success. This simple practice is one that has led her heart to impact hundreds of middle school students.

“I have to show students that I see them, respect them and like them,” Rowan said. “It is as simple as that.”