San Pedro resident Bronwyn Bunnell has an advantage as a first-year teacher. She was raised by parents who both teach for Los Angeles Unified School District, and teaching has been in her life since she was born. Landing a job at the same school as her mom, Jenna Martin Bunnell, has been a very positive experience. (The school does not often have teaching openings.) For the Bunnels, it was perfect timing when a job opened up just as Bronwyn had finished her schooling.
Jenna, a third-grade teacher at 186th Street Elementary in Gardena, would bring her young son and daughter Bronwyn into the classroom every year while she set up her room in the summer. They would play in their playpen in the middle of the room as she decorated and unboxed her supplies.
As Bronwyn was growing up, she would continue to volunteer in her mom’s classroom. While attending UC Santa Barbara, she would spend a month at the end of summer with her mom helping at 186th Street since she started college in late September. Jenna, a positive and energetic teacher, has been teaching for 35 years, mostly at 186th Street. She had tried to get a teaching position in San Pedro at the beginning of her career but did not have seniority so found herself in Gardena and has not looked back.
“186th Street School is a very supportive environment. Teachers look out for each other across all grade levels,” says Jenna. “Now the staff at the school who watched my daughter grow up are helping my daughter as she starts her first year as a fourth-grade teacher.”
“My mom just loves her students. I learned so much from watching her,” says Bronwyn. “She has fun with the kids, and they feel supported so they behave. How many people get to watch their mom as a role model in their chosen career?”
Jenna, who comes from a family that has been in San Pedro for generations, explains that for teachers, the first year can be the most challenging. There are many things to learn from classroom management, lesson plans, how to take attendance, and even how to use the copy machine. Extra staff to support new teachers are often not available, and often many quit. She is happy to be able to assist her daughter as she starts her teaching career.
Bronwyn adds, “I know I am in a very unusual situation. I grew up hearing what was like a second language, teacher talk, making the transition to teaching familiar. Staff at the school, who I have known since I was young, now are leaving boxes of supplies at my classroom door looking out for me in many ways.”
While teacher training, Bronwyn kept her students active, sometimes doing jumping jacks or running a lap to break up the day. Like her mom, she does not want the kids sitting at their desks all day. A runner who did track and field at San Pedro High School, UCSB, and Long Beach State, Bronwyn’s high-energy, upbeat style is similar to her mom’s teaching approach.
With Jenna teaching third grade and Bronwyn teaching fourth grade, some students will have Jenna one year as a teacher and her daughter the next. Bronwyn has been preparing for this moment for years, collecting supplies, many items upcycled from other teachers, some of whom are retiring. She completed her first project with DonorsChoose, a fundraising platform for teachers, and raised money for the supplies she still needed for her classroom at this Title 1 school.
“I have never been in charge of my own classroom, the captain of my own ship,” Bronwyn says as she starts her teaching career. Both mom and daughter agree it is going to be a great year. spt