LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS 11)--For some time now we’ve been talking to you about breaking down the “Ninth Street Divide.” Our mission is to give you a new perspective on a place many of you haven’t been, and some people refuse to go.
One group helping to break down the divide is teachers. Not everyone realizes it, but a ton of teachers who work in West Louisville are making a commute each morning, ignoring the stigma.
“It’s a lot of making breakfast and making lunches, and throwing dinner in the crockpot,” explained Samantha Morris as she drove to work. From the moment she wakes up, she’s on the move.
“When I pray over 64, and 64 runs well, it’s about 30 minutes.”
But if there’s a wreck or stalled vehicle, her drive can be almost an hour. Samantha makes the trek across 9th Street every morning to get to her classroom.
“I’ve had so many people say, don’t stay at school too late, or don’t go to school too early, I’m like guys, it’s going to be okay. My kids live in this.” Samantha says she feels called to the job of teaching.
“It’s definitely a hard job. It’s something you have to know you want to do.”
Samantha says she doesn’t see her job in the West End as any more important than any other teacher in the district.
“Our job as teachers is to teach students and what better place to do it than where they might need a little bit more love or support.”
Her classroom is more than a workplace.
“We see potential here, we don’t see, this is where you are, this is where you might go, this is where your family is. That’s not our belief here, or belief is you’re an individual, and as an individual, it’s my job as a teacher to get you to where you need to be.”
Samantha knows many of her students face huge challenges when they leave school.
“It is a lot of negative. It’s a lot of shootings and, you know, all these things going on and then you look at these students who are here and say hey like you’re going to be out there soon like I can teach you empathy. I can teach you compassion. I can teach you problem-solving skills.”
Not just how to be a different learner, but a different person.
“It’s a mantra I have my students repeat almost every day. You can do hard things.”
A message students get from all teachers at the school.
“For most my staff, to come to Portland is a different area of town for them, it’s a long drive in the morning,” explained Angela Hosch. She’s been the principal at Portland Elementary for 13 years.
“Relating to our kid’s lives is different and it’s something we have to embrace and know that we aren’t fully able to relate to and we don’t truly know where they’re coming from.”
So Hosch says teachers learn from each other’s experiences. Sometimes it’s a classroom teacher who can best relate to a student, sometimes it’s the principal, and other times it might be a janitor or security guard – everyone in the building plays a vital role in reaching students.
Working past 9th Street can mean push back.
“People think, oh you’re just paying your time, or you can transfer out,” explained Samantha.
She says that’s not the case. Days do get hard, but on those days she has this to get her through…“You remember the smiles on their face when they come in and say good morning,” said Samantha.
Samantha did want to make it clear that the teachers at Portland work as a team. If a student succeeds in her second-grade class, that’s thanks to help from the kindergarten and 1st-grade teachers.
WHAS also doesn’t want to diminish the work of teachers who live in West Louisville. There are some really dedicated staff and teachers who live in the west end, and we, of course, are so grateful for the work they do every day.