Student Spotlight: JenaLynn Settles

May 12, 2022

"I know the culture, I know the area. My students feel seen."

Relay resident JenaLynn Settles is teaching at an elementary school right down the street from where she grew up. She says that she hadn’t been back to the area for 20 years, but that being there brings back so many memories of when she lived there with her grandparents. She was, she says, “the oddball child”; the child who needed more support and resources. After a career as a medical assistant and working in communications, she realized that she wanted to give back to students like her - to the ones who might be struggling, who need a safe space to get calm and ready to learn.

Now, she teaches 3rd grade science at IDEA Ewing Halsell in southwest San Antonio. She is in the first year of the Relay Teaching Residency at Relay San Antonio, on track to receive her Master of Arts in Teaching in 2023. And her science classroom is erupting - literally! - with the fun of scientific discovery. (Don’t worry - the eruptions came from playdough volcanos that the students made to learn about natural disasters. And yes, they loved the overflowing red lava!) She taps into that same love of science that brought her into the medical field, as the students learn about states of matter, the planets, ecosystems and more.

And she is also careful to create that safe space she dreamed about. She connects with the predominantly Hispanic student population (As she is also Hispanic, and grew up with Spanish as her first language.) She makes sure that students who are struggling, or might even have vision or hearing problems, sit at the front of the classroom, so she can check on them (Alongside their peers who are all tasked to help each other.) She loves to create structure so that students know exactly what is expected of them at each moment, and can feel comfortable and ready to learn.

Ms. Settles says that faculty at Relay have been amazing supports, always providing helpful feedback and encouragement. Dean Maria Faqier regularly reminds her to take stock of all she is juggling - as a wife, mom, a new teacher, a part time fitness instructor and Secretary with the military's Family Readiness Group organization. When she feels like she hasn’t done her best in one area, Dean Faqier reminds her to be proud of all she is contributing, and to realize how her experience in so many different environments helps her to be flexible and attuned in the classroom. The Relay content aligns with the expectations at her school, so all of her coursework and practice truly help her grow.

Ms. Settles brings that individual attention to every student. One student has some behavior challenges, and sometimes acts out in other classrooms. Ms. Settles has found a way to connect with her by respecting her needs. For example, the student has an accommodation to bring a stuffed bear with her to class, as the bear makes her feel calm. Ms. Settles sits the bear at the front of the room and prints an assignment for him, so that the student can see he, too, is engaged in the lesson. This calms her down and helps her focus on her own work. In everything she does, Ms. Settles makes sure students feel seen.

Thank you, Ms. Settles, for all that you do for  your students and community!