NEWARK, NJ — At the conclusion of the 2020-21 school year, Jamila Colin was named Teacher of the Year at Newark’s South 17th Street Elementary School for her tireless dedication to serving the community.
In fact, even when the bell rings and class is over, Colin’s work is just beginning. She serves as the supervisor of United Community Corporation’s 21st Century afterschool and summer program for children aged 8 to 13 — some of whom she spends all September through June in the classroom with as well.
“Working with the kids is amazing because you see them growing from third-graders into ninth- and 10th-graders,” Colin said. “A lot of them stay in the program and have graduated from the youth program into the teen program for high schoolers. It’s great because they are staying out of trouble and they are coming to us because they want to.”
Colin is a resource teacher at South 17th Street, teaching English language arts and math, and was recently promoted to being a literacy coach. Within UCC’s 21st Century Program, Colin assists director Yucleidis Melendez with running the program, runs staff training, and helps staff understand how to work with and manage students with behavioral issues. She has been at South 17th Street for eight years, within the Newark Public Schools District for 10 years and with UCC for five years.
“I really love working with her because she has a passion for education,” Melendez said. “She helps me out so much with everything. The 21st Century Program is going in the direction that we always wanted it to go because of her commitment to education. We need her knowledge so that our program can meet the needs of our community.”
Melendez recalled a specific student who was struggling with reading from a very young age and whom Colin took under her wing. Thanks to Colin’s patience and guidance, the student learned how to read and his poor grades quickly turned around. He is now one of the most dedicated students in UCC’s teen program and is happy to lend a hand to his fellow classmates. He is one of the students that grew up through UCC’s 21st Century and teen programs.
“Ms. Colin was a massive part of his success,” Melendez said. “He has no issues in school anymore. It is very nice to see a product of hers first-hand. His story was so inspiring to me because he is one of the best teens that we have in our program. Ms. Colin is very involved with all of the kids here. She definitely deserves this award.”
While the recognition is wonderful and humbling, Colin will be the first to admit that awards have nothing to do with why she is so dedicated to helping those adolescents around her.
“I’m doing this from the bottom of my heart,” she said. “If I never got recognized, I’d be OK, but it is nice to get recognition. This shows me that I’m making a real difference and touching the lives of these children.”