Jasmine Schnurlein: From Mentee to Mentor

by Tom Hanlon  /   Jul 12, 2019

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University of Illinois College of Education graduate Jasmine Schnurlein is mentoring and leading teachers at an early juncture in her career. Still, her ultimate focus remains on students.

Note: This article is one of a series that the College of Education is running on alumni who have quickly ascended the ranks of educational leadership and have made a big impact on students in the process.

It wasn’t until her junior year at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign that it clicked in for Jasmine Hicks Schnurlein: I know what I want to do. I want to teach.

“I had this ‘Aha!’ moment,” she recalls. “I have always liked helping children. I taught Sunday School and volunteered with youth.”

So, she dashed her dentistry and political science ambitions and headed to the College of Education.

“The College was a huge help in preparing me to teach,” says Schnurlein, who graduated in 2009 with her bachelor’s degree in education. “It was rigorous and high quality. It taught me about interview protocols and provided me with a multitude of strategies to engage students and have fun while learning.”

In 2010, she began her career. She taught for a year at an all-boys charter high school on the west side of Chicago, which “prepared me for classroom management and student engagement,” she says. Then she taught for four years at Jacob Beidler Elementary School, also on the west side of Chicago. “Those years assisted me with becoming an organized and meticulous teacher, and also fine-tuned small group instruction, which is so pivotal,” she says.

At Beidler, she was mentored by Shirley Stevens, a reading specialist, who urged her to get her administrative certificate. “I was always inspired to become a principal one day, but I didn’t want to rush the process,” says Schnurlein, who responded to Stevens’ encouragement by attaining her certificate.

That allowed her to be hired in 2014 as assistant principal at Harvard School of Excellence, a preK-8 school in Chicago.

“The school is my classroom now,” says Schnurlein of her expanded role. “Just as I was mentored by others, I am now mentoring teachers.”

She has created a mentor program at the school to help with an influx of new teachers, whether it’s “classroom management or instruction or gaining insight and ideas from veteran teachers,” she says.

Schnurlein also works hard at building relationships with parents, getting everyone on the same page in understanding their roles in the students’ education. “My ultimate focus is always on the students and on the quality of instruction that they’re getting,” she says.

She still recalls the quality of instruction she received through the College of Education. “The coursework was great, and the field experiences were phenomenal,” she says. “I was placed in a variety of schools with students from varied socioeconomic statuses. It assisted me in collaborating with others and serving diverse groups of students from various communities.

“The College goes beyond what other education programs offer. It goes beyond baseline content. You get to meet a lot of different people and are offered a myriad of opportunities. It was the best educational experience of my career.”