Children First: Lindsay teacher giving students real-world lessons

LINDSAY, Calif. (KFSN) -- Jose Garcia loves his new job at Lindsay Tire And Auto Care Center.

"I can do radiators," he said. "Pretty much brakes, tires. Helping out with alignments."

He started as an intern, one of ten from Lindsay Unified who have received hands-on experience here.

"He's an outstanding individual and he's only going to grow in this," says Lindsay Tire and Auto Care Center Owner Alex Mejia. "He loves cars. He's got the right mentors to help him out."

Jose attended John J Cairns, an alternative education school in Lindsay. A place where you can get a second chance and more one-on-one help if a traditional high school setting isn't working out.

Students are called learners and teachers like Lana Russo-Jimenez are known as learning facilitators.

"We find their purpose is what we do," she said. "We find their purpose because a lot of times, they come to us, they don't know what their purpose is. Once they have that, nothing can stop them."

Russo, as learners call her, first builds confidence by getting to know them, a key way to build trust. She also connects them with internships.

"I know that many of the learners that we have here in Lindsey, they come from poverty and they dream of having things like a house," she said. "They want to buy a house, they want to buy a car, they want to be able to do things in life. A lot of times, they don't have the skills to do that."

Russo makes math come alive with financial literacy classes, where topics like jobs plus saving and investing are common themes.

"She showed us, she walked us through how to do our taxes," says Misael Martinez. "It was really scary at first, and she even said it looks really scary, but it gets more simple once you understand everything."

If learners need extra attention, they can reach Russo by cellphone.

"I'm kind of an out-of-the-box teacher, they're out-of-the-box kids," Russo-Jimenez said.

Angela remembers a time when she skipped school.

Russo's positive attitude and encouragement broke through.

"You're not always going to be in the same place, there's always something bright afterward," Angela said. "I didn't know I was this smart. I didn't know I was clever until I actually started learning."

Russo reveals she once failed math.

"I did not understand percents at all," she said. "So I got an F on my report card. So I actually have my report card in my classroom. I do talk with my learners about it. My purpose of becoming a math teacher was so that my learners know that bad grades do not define them."

Caring and connecting adds up to success in Russo's class.

"Ms. Russo is a great example of how a learning facilitator can change a paradigm, per learner, and they can have a whole new understanding of how an educator can be a support and a resource and a coach in life," says John J. Cairns Principal Amalia Lopez.
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