ALUMNI & FRANKFORD TEACHER
LENA NAMNUN, Class of 1995
A Strong Foundation in Family and Tradition
FA-COM: Tell us about winning the impressive Lindback Teacher of the Year Award? What it meant to you.
Lindback Teacher of the Year Award
The Lindback was a great honor. It meant that my peers considered me exemplary. While it's always great to be recognized by superiors, your peers really get to see the person/teacher you are and for them to recognize me with that honor was truly flattering.
Also, tell us about winning the, National Liberty Museum Hero Teacher award. (
National Liberty Museum
The NLM Hero Award was a completely different experience. I didn't even know I was nominated, and then I was informed I won.
Mere days later my Mom passed away in our home, and less than 24 hours later our youngest son was having major, life-saving surgery for a tumor we didn't know he had. He spent almost an entire month at CHOP, (Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia) which caused me to miss the induction ceremony.
Later that summer, my family took a field trip to the museum to see the display. It was very sweet and touching, but I wasn't able to fully appreciate how kind it was at the moment.
I feel terrible that I might not have seemed as gracious at the moment. But there was so much going on…it was difficult focus on it at all.
F-A.COM: What was your foundation growing up? How did you build on it?
"My entire family went to Frankford,
a school steeped in tradition."
I grew up with a strong foundation in family and tradition. My entire family went to Frankford, a school steeped in tradition.
It followed me into adulthood as Juan and I have a strongly connected family, raising our boys to be extremely tight and each other's best friend.
We have also taught them all of the traditions we grew up with. They take honor and family very seriously and love all of the Frankford tradition.
F-A.COM: Did you always want to be a teacher? What or who inspired you? What Frankford teachers inspired you the most? How?
LENA NAMNUN: As a young child, I first thought about being a chef or a nurse. I loved that hustle and bustle. But then I realized that I wouldn't be able to raise a family the way I wanted in those careers—which meant giving up nights, weekends, and holidays.
So by middle school, I realized that teaching was something I could be good at and enjoy, and history was always my favorite subject.
At the time, I had to get special permission to come to Frankford. So my father and I sat down with Mr. Peters. He asked me, "Are you SURE you want to teach history? You know your Mother didn't pass my history class?"
I assured him I would do better, and he let me in.
When I came to Frankford, I had many amazing teachers, but Ms. Otto really helped nurture my love for history and helped me get on the right track for teaching.
F-A.COM: Tell us about your experience winning the Eagles Community Quarter Back Award. (See Frankford Gazette’s profile)
Last year, (2017) I was notified that I was nominated and won the Eagles Community Quarterback Award for the work we do in our Peer Group Connection program.
I was totally thrilled because it meant some badly needed funds for a program that is totally funded by student fundraisers. I was honored at the first Eagles home game with a personalized jersey and amazing seats where Juan and I got to see the 61 yard field goal!
That was awesome enough, but then in December I was invited to a ceremony with my family. All of the winners were given a personalized football and a meet and greet with Vinnie Curry. Then, we were treated to dinner, a tour of the stadium. And the next day I was contacted with tickets to the Eagles/Falcons playoff game for the whole family!
It was a cool experience, but I honestly felt so humbled just to be in the room. Some of the other nominees had accomplished so much. I felt like I didn't belong. Yet the Eagles and Santander representatives kept fussing over how much I did for the students at Frankford. I was so grateful that anyone even noticed.
F-A.COM: What other awards have you won?
As amazing as all the other awards have been, I think my favorites come from the kids. I’ve had the yearbook dedicated to me by the senior class, and students continue to recognize the effort I put into our school community.
That is truly the greatest honor any educator can earn.
You’re the coordinator for the new Aviation Academy. What does that entail?
Our new Aviation Academy is off to a fun start. We have 15 kids in the pilot program… (using both senses of the word-lol) and I am learning on the fly. I’ve coordinated our Law Academy in the past and held several other coordinating positions (senior class sponsor, yearbook, Lawton Mentoring Program, etc.) so I was okay with taking on a great deal of responsibility.
However, this is a whole new experience. As coordinator, I will be purchasing needed items, coordinating business and community partners, supporting staff and students through the new curricula, organizing ceremonies/trips/speakers, grant writing and a whole lot more!
I have a ton to learn, but there are some tremendous people that have offered to help, so I'm confident we’ll continue to bring a strong program to our students. Especially, as we expand over the next few years.
F-A.COM: What activities were you involved in, while a student at Frankford?
My freshman year, I was the bowling manager. Mr. Folino had coached my older brothers and wanted to get me involved in something as quickly as possible.
I was in the National Honor Society, Danaides treasurer, newspaper editor, in the Health Academy for all four years, Senior Twelve, cheerleader for all four years (captain in my senior year) and worked in the school store.
F-A.COM: Tell us about your college education? Why you chose the school/s you attended?
West Chester University, A Chosen Fit.
I did my undergrad at West Chester. I chose it mostly because it felt right. It ended up being a perfect fit, because my father passed away my first year; and I ended up coming home and working every weekend.
After graduation, I went straight through to grad school at Holy Family College and earned a Master of Education MSED in Elementary Education.
From there, I went straight to another graduation program at Holy Family University (it changed to a university), where I earned a MSED in Education Administration.
Finally, when I finished that program I started another master’s program online with the University of Phoenix in adult education. By the time I had enough years in teaching, I had enough credits and certifications to go straight to senior career teacher with the School District of Philadelphia.
While I don't think I had any particular mentors in college, in my second MSED at Holy Family University, most of my professors were Philadelphia principals.
The funniest moment was when Juan and I walked into class and the professor was Dr. Rachild—our Principal from when we were students at Frankford! (We attended all but our first year of undergrad in the same schools at the same time for all of the same degrees—except undergrad)
F-A.COM: Why did you choose to teach Social Studies?
I've always wanted to know "why.” How questions (more math and science) were easy. I could plug in a formula and figure out what the answer was. Very cut and dry. What I wanted to know was why?
Why did someone do what they did? What did it feel like to experience what they did? In what ways were they changed because of what they experienced?
I wanted the story, not the solution. I needed to understand the interconnectedness of the human race—the interactions of people—and how these situations took us from point A to point B.
So history was just the natural subject to teach.
F-A.COM: I understand you helped write the history book currently used at Frankford. Tell us about that experience. Are you working on any other books?
LENA NAMNUN: It actually isn't in used any more, but we did use it for a while. As a senior, Ms. Otto asked if I would be interested in assisting with the compilation of a history book. Of course, I said yes. I was a student editor, giving feedback about organization, writing style, charts/graphs/pics, etc.
It was really cool to see that I was able to influence what and how other students were going to learn American History. While I haven't worked on another one since, I would love the opportunity.
Peer Group Connection--Special Prom
"Many adults need to learn lessons from these young people.
They are true heroes."
F-A.COM: Tell us about the Peer Group Connection program.
Peer Group Connection (PGC) was one of the greatest experiences I was ever a part of as an educator. About ten years ago our Assistant Principal, Mr. Laver, told me I need to go to training for this program; and that I'd be perfect for it.
I didn't want to go, it was my summer vacation time with my family, but I reluctantly agreed to go reluctantly. I have been grateful to him ever since.
It’s a program that has been around nationally for over 30 years. Essentially, juniors and seniors are trained to mentor freshmen during their most critical transition year to high school. They work with them about peer pressure, safety, setting goals, bullying, and so much more.
But not only do the freshmen learn and grow, the upper classmen become more responsible leaders through self-exploration and personal growth.
Often these students restore my faith in humanity.
Students that come from the most horrific personal background have the greatest capacity for caring and nurturing.
And, as our Spring Service Learning Project, we host a gala for our special education students that often aren't able to attend a traditional prom for various reasons. We deck out the library and put our best effort into creating a fun and celebratory event.
Throughout the year, we also have smaller events, like creating bulletin boards together each month and making gingerbread houses in the winter.
Unfortunately, the program doesn't have the funding it once did. It was designed to have a male and female co-teacher with 14-16 students. Now I teach it alone and we fundraise every day by selling coffee and muffins to the teachers.
This fundraising enables us to pay for the activities for our special needs population and the mandatory leaders’ retreat. That's why the Eagles Community Quarterback award was so huge—it provided us with 1/3 of our yearly funding.
F-A.COM: How did you and Juan meet at Frankford? Describe your family life. What are your hobbies/interests?
"Our lives are filled with football, baseball,
and family game nights."
Juan is my best friend, my husband, my soul mate and everything I love about life. We met in freshmen year when Mr. Grimes and Ms. Otto put their classes together for a period.
Neither one of us were impressed with the other, but at the beginning of sophomore year he asked me out. We had our first date on 10/3/92 and it's been amazing ever since.
We have three amazing boys (Jared, just turned 17 and is a senior, Derek is 13 and in 8th grade, and Jake is 10 and in 5th grade).
Our lives are filled with football, baseball, and family game nights. We love to travel, explore, and try new foods. Disney is our home away from home, and we are very active in our new community.
We are also going through the college exploration process with our oldest, which is a scary and exciting adventure!
This summer we celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary. Our son Jared got ordained and the boys put together a ceremony to renew our vows.
They are amazing kids. Whenever we have to make a family sacrifice, so we can be there for a Frankford student who needs us—their response is always…it's ok, we're lucky to have you. Other kids aren't as lucky, so we can share.
What more could you ask for as a parent?
F-A.COM: How does the Frankford of 1995 differ from today’s Frankford? What challenges did you overcome when you return to Frankford to teach? What advice would you give the Class of 2019?
Honestly, I don't see much difference. Maybe we had more two-parent households when we were kids. But that didn't mean they were any less dysfunctional than our students have today.
Our world, in general, is a vastly different place than it was in 1995, but there’s still so much that’s the same. Kids are still kids. They still need someone to believe in them and show them that there are no limitations.
When I returned to Frankford I didn't have many challenges. Some of my old teachers were still there. They looked out for me and helped make the transition smooth.
But, as always, Frankford is underestimated by many.
My advice to the Class of 2019 is the same as I always have for students.
Be proud to be a Pioneer. You come from a rich tradition, but don't let that limit where you can go or what you can become.
But if you don't come back and help someone else move up the ladder, then I'm going to hound you until you do!
F-A.COM: What would you like to see happen at Frankford in the next several years?
I would like to see the old and new worlds mesh better. I think we need to move into the 21st century with greater technology and more training for career and college readiness.
"I would also like to see our past be a greater part
of our present and future."
AN ALUMNI REQUEST FOR THE PRESENT & FUTURE
We need alum who are willing to help. For example, I'm sure we have a pilot somewhere in our ranks that can come back and talk to our Aviation students.
I know we have alum who can donate gently used suits and business clothes for our students to use for interviews. I'm certain we have a plumber or two that can mentor a young graduate.
We need to set examples for our current students so that when we are gone, they’ll continue to help future generations and keep our school and spirit alive!
Susan B. Anthony once said, “Every woman should have her own purse.” What do you think every woman should have?
Lol. I've never much been into the whole women's lib thing. I have always lived in a male-dominated world, but I never let them underestimate me.
Just because I CAN change my tire, doesn't mean I should. I'm old-fashioned in many ways. I think every woman should have a good recipe book. A well planned meal/baked good can open so many doors.
It can say I love you/I care when you can't find the right words. It can show gratitude; and it's the best way to nurture someone's soul.
F-A.COM: Finally, what is your favorite quote?
I got it from a fortune cookie, but I love it- "A ship in harbor is safe, but that's not what a ship was meant for." We all love what is safe and easy and what we know.
But we need to break out and try something new. You never know what you can do until you try. I use this with my students and sons all the time and I rely on it when I need the courage to try something new myself.