Up for the Challenge


Christopher Lewis
Fourth Grade Special Education Teacher
Medfield Heights Elementary, Baltimore, MD

Chris Lewis is proud of his 4th grade students. Last September, most were reading at a 1st or 2nd grade level. By May, all but one had grown by at least four reading levels, a major feat for any 4th grader and especially so for a class with a high incidence of special needs.

But what impresses Chris more than his students’ academic gains is how they’ve developed as people. They work in groups almost every day and have had a lot of frank conversations about how to deal with challenging interactions, navigate difference, and take responsibility.

Teaching those skills isn’t always easy. Chris faced one his biggest challenges last year, when a new student responded to frustration by throwing chairs. Nine-year-old Brian had been kicked out of three schools previously; when he got going, none of Chris’s usual strategies could calm him down. In need of a more radical approach, Chris decided to involve himself in Brian’s life by showing up at football games and getting to know his mother and coach. In time, Brian’s behavior stabilized.

Looking back, Chris is grateful for the special education training he got from Urban Teachers. Those tools have made him more hirable, more effective at managing diverse learners, and better able to problem-solve when faced with a challenging student like Brian. He’s appreciated Urban Teachers' ongoing support, too, though he finds he needs it less and less.

Now a graduate of the program, Chris feels confident in his skills as a teacher. “If you make it through Urban Teachers,” he says, “you’re good to go.”