Home / News / No one predicted the impact two reporters would have on kids at a Cleveland elementary school: A teacher’s perspective on Cleveland’s Promise

No one predicted the impact two reporters would have on kids at a Cleveland elementary school: A teacher’s perspective on Cleveland’s Promise

Jun 16, 2023Jun 16, 2023

For the series known as Cleveland’s Promise, the Cleveland Metropolitan School District gave two reporters, Hannah Drown and Cameron Fields, unprecedented access to classrooms at Almira Elementary School to show readers how teachers overcome the challenges of educating children whose lives are complicated by poverty. The following piece was written by Mrs. Sharon Lenahan, the fourth-grade teacher who hosted Hannah and Cameron in her classroom for the first year of Cleveland’s Promise.

CLEVELAND, Ohio -- As’s special project Cleveland’s Promise came to a close last month, I sat back and thought that something was missing. That there was a piece of the puzzle lost within the articles. A story that I wanted to write. A story told through my eyes, about two reporters, who came to write about students within the city of Cleveland and came out as warriors, with a valiant effort for change.

As a classroom teacher of about 24 fourth-grade students, it’s hard to really get to know all of them. Our first goal is to build a rapport. Build relationships. And I do that. But to know what they go home to and what life is like beyond the walls of Almira Elementary School, is something different. We would like to believe that these sweet, innocent, beautiful children go home, and someone is there to greet them with a hug, a plate of food and a helpful hand, if it’s needed for homework. But we know that’s not always the case. And not just in Cleveland, but everywhere, every district.

When Hannah and Cameron first started in my classroom, one of the first things they did was build their own relationships with my students. They interviewed them, one at a time, spent time with them on their classwork, went to lunch and recess with them. They eventually went to a few homes and spent time with the whole family. And that’s right about when those two reporters realized how different life was for some.

Hannah, a powerful force, began to make note of everything fourth-graders Sophia and Grace were saying. These girls began to confide in Hannah, and she was always there, listening. Hannah confided in me about problems at home with Sophia, and it was very clear that action needed to be taken to help this little girl and her sister. Change was made on a very large scale. That school year was so pivotal for Sophia. As the life she knew unfolded and became very scary for a time, Hannah was there for her. Everyday. As I continued to power through with Sophia’s schoolwork and getting her caught up from days missed, Hannah was there, like a big sister, to hold her hand through probably the worst days of her little life. It was the Butterfly Effect in action -- just as Hannah had written in her personal reflection, closing the series. But Hannah was the butterfly that “with the tiny breeze of a proverbial butterfly’s flapping wings, could, somewhere, eventually stir a typhoon.”

And Grace, that soft spoken sweetheart. Little did I know that she was going to a “home” of complete disarray. Mold, holes in the ceilings, filth. When Hannah came back from visiting Grace at home, new clothes were immediately being brought in. Help was on the way. New sheets and bedding were donated. Bags and bags of clothes were being taken home. Grace was so happy, more confident. Something so many of us take for granted. To have clean clothes. It was the Butterfly Effect. Hannah, again, was that butterfly that “with a single act of support or compassion can unleash a chain reaction of transformative moments, altering the path of a child’s life and clearing the way for a future in which their potential – their promise – can be realized.”

And Cameron – he’s going to be a teacher! A perfect fit. Cameron came to Almira as a reporter, and he left inspired to pursue a new calling in education.

When the school year was ending, I asked fifth-grader Paul what he would miss most. After having Cameron in his life for almost two years, Paul said with a smile, “I’m gonna miss him. He’s my best friend.” I don’t even think Cameron knows quite the impact he made on these little men. He was their rock.

While in fourth grade, Paul would often say how dumb he was. He just insisted that he wasn’t smart. When Cameron showed up, I immediately had Paul start working with him. Paul is a great kid, a good student, who tries hard. He just needed someone like Cameron around to help build him up, instead of tearing him down. I wasn’t going to be able to do it by myself.

Did I mention that Cameron is, like, 6′5″? He was a gentle giant with these boys. When Cameron would walk in, their little eyes would light up. As soon as Cameron sat at the back table, a group would immediately take their work and seek Cameron’s help. Some needed it, but some just enjoyed the attention from Mr. Fields. He has an amazingly calm spirit, and the boys loved it. Sometimes they would get off track and start talking about non-schoolwork topics. I didn’t mind. The smiles on the boys’ faces were priceless. To those boys, Cameron was priceless. Again, the Butterfly Effect. “How nurturing and mentorship can improve a student’s relationships beyond the classroom walls.”

Cameron continued to build relationships with boys throughout his time at Almira. He was always at lunch, enjoying conversations and being a role model. Young, African-American males are not common in education. Cameron was meeting a need with these little men. They could talk to him. I know Cameron loved the conversation as much as they did. He realized through these times that being in education was his true calling. Priceless. The Butterfly Effect.

Cameron and Hannah were fixtures at Almira for almost two years. Through the stories they wrote, they covered just about every square inch of what makes Almira, Almira. But what went unsaid -- and the puzzle piece that makes Cleveland’s Promise complete -- was their commitment and passion and energy to Almira and our scholars. They fought for the children in ways sometimes teachers can’t. They fought and reported on the Say Yes Cleveland program, the importance of which I cannot even put into words. It was a program that was about to be taken away, and the readers responded. So much was donated to students (and even teachers), because of’s stories.

Hannah and Cameron were there when students needed mediation or just simply a walk down the hall with a friend. They were with us on field trips, helped the students pull weeds on Earth Day and cheered them on during Dancing Classrooms. If there was an event, they were there, supporting the students -- not just gathering material for their stories.

Lives were changed forever because of Mr. Fields and Miss Hannah. I don’t think either one of them had any idea, back in October 2021, how their warrior-like energy would have such an impact on Almira and the children of Room 304.

To Cameron and Hannah and all of the readers, who reached out and donated or sent a supportive message – even to help with a new classroom “therapy lizard” -- I say thank you, from all of us at Almira.

-- Mrs. Sharon Lenahan, Almira Elementary School

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