Cherubs and Seraphs of the Community: Teacher Ma Jean A. Mizell Chayette

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If we had a better perspective about how it is to take care of special needs children, at best, we can ask someone who had experience in teaching a primary autism classroom with sixteen students, in the person of Ma Jean A. Mizell Chayette. I have no greater respect for someone who has patience, understanding, and kindness in heart, facing the many challenges in managing children, more so with ‘special needs’. “One has to have serious flexibility to deal with children having behavioral impediments for one, more so those with absentee parents – those who cannot take care of the special needs of their children, proves more challenging,” Jean emphasizes.

I salute the late Atty. Geminiano Almeda and Jean’s mother, Juanita, a retired agriculturist for raising a compassionate daughter. Born a “Scorpio with a dragon sign”, she insists saying (as she refused to disclose her DOB), Jean grew up in Paete, Laguna with four other brothers, Joel, Philip, and Manuel, all engineers, and a deceased sibling Mario.

A graduate of AB Economics from the University of the Philippines class of 1985, Jean had a change in career path when she found her inclination, possibly by “divine re-route” when she became a substitute and eventually became a teacher’s assistant that led her to apply at the ‘Alternative Route to Licensure’ as influenced by a co-teacher Ms. Guthrie and was thereby offered the ‘Master Program’ paid by the school district.

Teacher Jean focused on the “three Rs” in education: Reading, writing, and arithmetic initially. She also taught at Nevada Learning Academy all online classes in first-grade resource room, and co-taught classrooms for Biology, US Government, English 10, and College Algebra. In view of the teacher shortage, however, she was deployed in a ‘primary autism classroom’ aside from her normal teaching routine. Henceforth Jean took her Master of Education in Special Ed. She is currently with the Student Services Division and now has 17 years of experience in the (education) profession. She is also a ‘National Board Certified Teacher’, a distinction that qualifies her to teach in all 50 states of  America!

I asked Ms. Jean what the best thing she liked about being a teacher and she quipped a humorous response, “I like the 2 months of summer break and 2 weeks of winter break!” … and I thought who would not want that long “vacation” from a job?

Before she became a teacher, Jean said there were adversities in making ends meet after moving to the US with her first husband, Jeff Mizell. “We had to leave my son in the Philippines,” and the separation made her heart heavy, she shared. “After my son Darwin finished high school, he finally followed us to America in December 2006. Our reunion was more gratifying as we both went to UNLV together, him for his college education to earn his Bachelor of Science in Hospital Administration and I pursued my graduate school. Then I was ‘widowed’ by Jeff in August 2014”.

“Tell us about your most memorable encounter with a student.” I inquired, and Jean recounted a former student from years ago in the resource room the young boy had dyslexia then and had serious difficulty reading. Jean continued to narrate that “He came to my classroom one afternoon, and he said he had been looking for me. Now a grown man, Mr. Martinez said that with my kindness and patience, especially in teaching him to read, he now goes to a technical school as a dental hygienist. He subs as a night custodian to finance his studies. I felt so touched and I could not help but cry! I hugged him and told him that I was so proud of him!”

Altogether, Jean achieved recognition to be the Outstanding Mother of the Year 2023; she is the incumbent Vice-President of Filipino American Educators of NV (FAME), and a Member of distinct organizations such as UPAAN, NAFFAA, PAAN. Additionally, she was recognized as Woman of the Year in Education in 2021. To validate such recognition (in education), Jean now advocates for J1 Filipino teachers, hired from the Philippines to teach in special education classrooms in the Las Vegas school district. “I have become a sister or even a mother to them. I have coached and mentored some of them and instilled ambitious standards and expectations in education.”

Now married to Lloyd Scott Chayette, a retired airline mechanic and supportive husband “who makes jewelry out of rocks.” Jean proudly discloses her new-found love. She concludes our interview by advising aspiring teachers with authority:

“There are so many changes in education regarding policies, new personnel, curriculum, and schedules, among other relevant considerations; thus, a teacher must be flexible in order to make necessary adjustments to ongoing deviations. A teacher cannot be lazy; one needs to be ready to adapt every second, especially in a classroom where students have special needs. Patience is not only a requisite, since we cannot see the “fruits of our labor” right away. We need to believe in what we do and be determined, to advocate for our students, our children.”