“I had a pretty special relationship with my teachers when I was growing up.”


Ms. Katherine Cooke

Interview Audio

Katherine Cooke is a teacher at Animo Jefferson Charter Middle School. She teaches both drama and Read 180.

She had many influences in her life which were her parents and her sister. She was not rich.  To buy food, she had to count out coins from a bucket of change.

Her dad was her teacher. She also got influenced by her dad to be a teacher.

Growing up, she didn’t want to be a teacher. She was thinking of digging up dinosaur bones.

She has had many challenges but her failures are not the end of the world.

Katherine Cooke : Hi my name is Katherine Cooke, I am a 6th grade R180 and Drama teacher at Animo Jefferson. 
Arleth Santana : My name is Arleth and I’m going to be interviewing Ms. Cooke. What was your first impression of me ? 
KC : [giggles] Ouuu that’s a loaded question. Umm I think I’m trying to remember, I think one at least one of my first impression of you was that you had a lot of attitude [giggles] umm I just remember having you in Empowered Reading. I didn’t  have you for regular class. I didn’t really know you but you came in and i was taking attendance and I was like I think I called you “Arleth” probably the first time so I was like “Arleth” and you like its “Arleth ” [giggles] and you kept saying it over and over and I felt like i was saying it wrong but I don’t think I was saying it wrong [giggles] I can’t say it right, I can’t hear you I’m trying so I remember being very anxious because I felt I was saying it wrong and it wasn’t on purpose, I just can’t say it right ummm but then I felt the first day out this girl has a lot of attitude it seem to me that you were really kind and I just remember you would be in the corner you would sometime read and sometimes not. But eventually you would always say hi in the hallways and I thought that was really nice and I started to know you over the year, I felt that not necessarily change but you were starting to buckle down and do your work and you were trying to be the best you can be and I really admire that and I felt that you were a good student, very smart, umm and and very brave and going against the typical middle school nothing matters kind of mentality. 
AS: Who has influenced you in your life? 
KC: Umm I got a lot of influences in my life some whom were my family and some whom were teachers and it was one of my teachers I had and my sister really influenced me because she is my little sister. I grew up taking care of her and write her name and stuff like that so she sort of taught me to be protective and to be responsible and also to find the joy in king of everything she’s really care free more than I am sometimes and my parents of course influenced me and my mom influenced me and she never accepts second best in me and I never succeed either or neither does her but she tries her best to be like that and also my dad has influenced me because he has been my teacher for my whole life and he really influenced me to be a teacher and he still likes his job and he likes working with kids and now he’s an administrator and he still loves his job. 
AS: But overall how was your childhood did you have challenges?
KC: Overall my childhood was happy we were not rich I remember counting coins out of a jar we were poor and my parents and I would go to the library when it was free and the zoo when it was free and we still experienced either way we were poor but overall it was good i was pretty good kid and just exception when I was bad but I got away with it (hahaha).
AS: But overall how was your childhood? Was it challenging? Did you have many mistakes? 
KC: Ummm, I would say that my childhood was pretty happy, in a lot of ways umm we were not rich we didn’t have a lot of money and counting coins out of jar but I was happy we would go to the library it was free and my mom would take us to the zoo on the day it was free um so I felt either way we necessarily didn’t have a lot of money my parents always found a way to experience a lot of the world  and still umm to get interesting education in some ways ummm I was a pretty good kid  with the exception of one time that I was a bad kid but I got away with it so yea (Laughs).
AS: Did you ever think you were going to be here as a teacher? Did you ever think of being sitting in a chair or teaching on the board? 
KC: Yea and no. When I was very very little umm not very very little I wanted to be a paleontologist and dig up dinosaur bones but that wasn’t really a good career path for me (laughs) ummm but then when I got a little older I wanted to be a veterinarian.  Eventually I wanted to be a teacher umm that lasts for a while until really about college I was thinking about being a teacher, umm and then once I took time to apply to college and everything I had developed such a love of acting and I decided to go to college for acting and try that for a while which was very fun and good ummm but ultimately teaching kind of kept pulling me back sort of it is still kind of surreal [interruption] oh come on announcement, ummm it is still sort of surreal sometimes even now and sometimes I will have to be standing in a group of kids and having discussions and they be coming up with having interesting ideas and I’ll go oh my gosh, this is exactly what I’ve always wanted umm but wasn’t sure that I will actually have.
AS: But like overall when you were like in college did you think of being a teacher soon right there? 
KC: No, no not really umm when I was in college I was really against being a teacher (laughs) ummm because so  many people in my family have been teachers and I was like I don’t want to be like everybody else I want to do my own thing I want to be a rebel umm which is hilarious because I was never really a rebel  umm but because so many people in my family wanted to be teachers I had decided to that point that I didn’t want to be a teacher for the reason I wanted to be something different ahh and then I caved and now here I am.
AS: How do you feel about being a teacher? 
KC: I love it, I love it, it’s the best thing I’ve ever done in my life ummmm  yea its the best decision I’ve ever made. It’s the best job I could’ve ever imagined having  umm I think in terms of just like sheer joy and ummmm feeling of accomplishment in some ways and like I’m making a difference in someone’s life maybe hopefully. Everyday there is nothing better.
AS: Did you ever think the kids were going to be nice to you?
KC: No not really to be honest. I hoped, I hoped, I remember like I had a pretty special relationship with my teachers when I was growing up because my dad was also a teacher so he would hang out with the teachers and I would sort of just be with him and then I got to know the teachers on a different level as well so not just in the classroom but outside of it, so I have had a special relationship. I sort of kinda hoped that I would have, me as a teacher would have that kind of relationship with my students. I also was not sure at all if that was something that was going to happen so it’s pretty awesome that I have kids coming to my room and saying hi to me and seeing me in the hallways and shouting out and stuff like that, in a good way shouting at me (laughs).
AS: Who was there more for you when you were going through your career? Your dad or your mom?
KC: Ouuu that’s a good question.  Ummm from my teaching career my dad probably. He has more actual classroom experience. My mom taught but she taught writing lessons for courses ummm my dad taught history (laughs). My dad was there more for me in some ways because he understood more of what is that I was going through, what I was doing, umm so he could give more specific advice if I was having an issue or whatever it was, I need to talk about, he understood more, ummmm but my mom was always very very supportive like growing up, I would say, when I was younger, my dad was working a lot she worked too but she had a better in terms of taking care of my sister and me so she would come and pick us up at school and take us to school in the morning and she would like drive us to dance class if we need to go to dance class or whatever it was she was always there and was willing to put that extra mile umm and like I remember around Christmas time like to get extra money for the family and she would keep supporting us on everything. My mom will do night shifts at Target and her day jobs. I don’t know when she slept. Never probably. She would take care of my sister and I and teach writing lessons and restocking but my mom is the coolest person ever umm but she worked really really hard to support me.
AS: in what ways has your mom influenced you or impacted your life? 
KC: I mean I would not be here without my mom for sure ummm she is so solid and so willing to do whatever it takes to kind of help her children succeed not in that crazy scary way where she likes murders people (laughs) but like in a way where she would sacrifice her own self or he own happiness to help her family and to help her children. Like I remember being very little, very young ummm and I took ice skating lessons because it was at the community college thingy of child’s ice skating lessons umm and my mom took me there, drove me there and then sat in the freezing cold arena and like watch me skate for an hour a week I think umm which would have been miserable and I would look back at that of how mean was I that I made my mom sit there in the freezing cold play and just sit there and watch me skate, phones weren’t such a thing so is not like if she would be on her phone or anything umm so like yeah I  everything to her.
AS: Like in your school did you have any friends that influenced you to become what you are right now? 
KC: Umm, no ( laughs ) no I mean yes and no umm I mean so I yea i’ll actually say yes I had a lot of friends at school that I still talk to today I know yea thats crazy. Um she’s giving the “what” face, that was Arleth’s face just now and yes, I still have friends from middle school that I talk to ummm and I think they influenced me to be a teacher, a little bit, more than anything like they pushed me just like my mom and umm they call me out on it if I wasn’t doing something right or doing it but they will tell me if something was happening or noticing it and they would make me do it and go back and fix whatever I’ve done wrong umm so I think that I owe overall success in life to those friends who helped me accountable.  
AS: Did you ever had any ideas of being a teacher like having like umm how you say it like being who you are now? Like back then you would say I don’t want to be a teacher but then what were your changes? What were your changes for you wanting to be a teacher?
KC: So, I like swore up and down I never wanted to be a teacher.  Everybody is a teacher. I started working in a bookstore in New York City and it was an interesting job. I knew it was a right time mainly for children’s department and eventually I was sort of the manager so I was dealing with kids a lot and I was helping the kids find books and a lot, which was awesome. I loved it and also felt like I’m getting a bit of teaching in some ways but I want to do more and there will be a little girl that would be like and meant to learn more about engineering or something and I would go and find her an engineering book and she would have to help her find information and it felt to me like  I was doing something good on a very small scale and I wanted to get to a position to do something on a larger scale and for me that was teaching.
AS: Did you have any activities before you wanted to be a teacher or like jobs you wanted to be? 
KC: Ummm, yea I think I mentioned I wanted to be a paleontologist I wanted to dig up dinosaur bones then I wanted to be a vet because I love animals but then I realized that sometimes I got to watch animals die and I was like ahh I don’t want to do that (laughs). Then I thought about being a doctor but I was terrible at math so that was out umm and eventually I fell in love with acting So then I wanted to be an actor and I love being an actor and doing it was awesome and then I got tired of sort of role it’s just wasn’t for me really and I didn’t feel like I was making a difference and that has been, that I want to make a difference. 
AS: Ummmm, how is it that  what challenges you faced during your career?
KC: My whole life has been a challenge, that failure is not the end. Failure is not nor be the end in fact you need to fail in order to keep growing and to keep learning ummmm, and I think that was a pretty big challenge for me to realize that because it used to be when I was growing up, like if I got something wrong I was just done and I never wanted to do it again and ever look at it again. I was just like nah not for me ummm but I think it’s really important to recognize that failure is just an opportunity to keep trying and to learn more umm so overcoming that feeling that failure is not the end of everything overcoming that feeling was my biggest challenge probably .
AS:  Well I think that’s it thank you.
KC : Thank you so much Arleth !