As a child, Rene Arkin knew she wanted to be a teacher so she could change the world. As an adult, she knows her work as an adult education teacher is changing lives.
Since graduating from Purdue University with a degree in Math and a Minor in Physical Education, Rene has had an extensive teaching career. In her first position after school, Rene taught algebra to 7th and 8th graders in Little Rock, AR, where she coached kids both in and out of the classroom.
“Growing up, the most influential people in my life were coaches and teachers,” Rene reflected. “I wanted to be that person for my students, so I got
involved with coaching the school’s basketball, track and field, and cross-country teams.”
Throughout her 15 years teaching in the public-school system and a seven-year hiatus to raise her two daughters, Rene has never lost sight of the importance of continuing education. In 2003 she went back to school, earning a Master’s in School Counseling from Butler University’s College of Education.
Rene continued in the classroom but in 2010, jumped at an opportunity to join the Department of Workforce Development (DWD). She started out as an Academic Career Counselor working with Adult Education programs. Her role was to work with the students and coach them in post-secondary opportunities. From this position, she was promoted to a manager role, leading a team of other counselors to work further with students and community centers.
Most recently in her career, Rene has been working with Blue River Career Programs (BRCP) and Southeast Community Services (SECS) as an Adult Education Teacher and Employment Coach.
When Rene first arrived at Southeast Community Services in 2017, the High School Equivalency (HSE) graduation rates were low, graduating only 18 students in the year she arrived. Rene revamped the existing curriculum that was in place, brought in her own teaching material, implemented good classroom management, and soon began reaping the results.
In the past three years, graduation rates in the BRCP program have continually trended upwards and Rene has shepherded more than 110 students to graduation during her time with the program.
Rene credits her blend of experiences, both in education and work force development, for her successes in Adult Education at Southeast Community Services. “I know the importance of education and what the workforce demand. I am able to teach the students those skills,” Rene said. “I would not be able to do this work without Carrie Harper – she handles the paperwork and lets me just be a teacher. We have a unique set up that allows for success.”
Even within the BRCP organization, Rene’s successes stand out. Of the 68 graduates the program saw in 2019, 85 percent of them were from Rene’s classroom.
“I don’t think there is another program like ours,” Rene said about the partnership between BRCP and SECS. “The students who go through our program have a distinct advantage because they are connected not only with the HSE program, but also with all of the services offered at Southeast Community Services. When taken advantage of, that type of support creates success.”
Rene and Carrie have not only increased graduation rates, they also established a graduation program for BRCP graduates, complete with gowns and caps, graduation speakers, and cake and punch to share with family and friends who come to help celebrate.
“I think the students that commit and come to class feel that Rene really cares about them,” Carrie Harper said. “The kids will say ‘I can do this if I go see Rene.’”
Rene’s latest success is being nominated for Adult Education Teacher of the Year for 2020, a nomination she is honored to receive.
“I feel very appreciated,” Rene said. “It makes you feel like someone is paying attention to your hard work. It’s an honor to see my work recognized.”
Contact Southeast Community Services at 317-236-7400 for more information about our free High School Equivalency classes.