Returning to Pelham Preparatory Academy as a teacher 15 years after he graduated was a dream come true for Jerry Sieunarine. The CFES alumnus always wanted to give back to his alma mater and is doing so by helping students like his younger self to succeed.
The special education teacher and CFES school liaison has impacted the lives of many students at PPA since returning in 2013. He shares the lessons he learned from his own mentors over the years, including some simple rules for success. “I tell them to be on time and to be careful making promises,” says Sieunarine. “If you do, make sure you can keep them, or people will judge your character and question your credibility.”
“You have to be adaptable. You might work towards your goal but events and situations can occur and shift your path. It is important to reassess and the new path you will be on will help you get to your destination.”
The desire to help young people started as a student at PPA where Sieunarine was a CFES Scholar and mentor. After graduation, he went to the University of Vermont and earned a BA in psychology in 2009 and a BS in business administration in 2010. It was around that time that he decided to pursue teaching, eventually earning his M.Ed. in Special Education from UVM in 2013 and an M.S.Ed. in educational leadership from the College of Saint Rose in 2019.
Sieunarine shares his experiences trying to figure out his own professional path with students emphasizing the need to utilize the Essential Skill of agility. “You have to be adaptable,” he tells mentees. “You might work towards your goal but events and situations can occur and shift your path. It is important to reassess and the new path you will be on will help you get to your destination.”
In addition to mentoring students, Sieunarine helps adults to become teachers through New York City Department of Education Programs such as Classroom Connect, Teaching Collaborative and Teaching Fellows. He’s especially passionate about his work with NYC Men Teach that focuses on the retention of male teachers of color through mentoring and providing resources.
Sieunarine, who facilitates professional development at PPA regarding special education modifications, wants to have the same impact on potential teachers as his mentor – special educator Ann Gatch of Burlington, Vermont – had on his career path. “She played a significant role in my decision to become a teacher so hopefully I can do the same for other young people,” he says.