“People to Watch: Jania Wester works to keep kids in school” by Randy Krehbiel, Tulsa World

Jania Wester, a former TPS teacher and administrator, works with Communities In Schools of Mid-America and was recently appointed to fill a Tulsa school board vacancy.

You can take Jania Wester out of the schools, but apparently you can’t take the schools out of Jania Wester.

Wester (whose first name is pronounced “Honya”), spent 18 years in Tulsa Public Schools as a teacher and administrator before leaving to help care for her ailing mother.

Now, Wester works with Communities In Schools of Mid-America, a nonprofit focused on dropout prevention, and was recently appointed to fill a vacancy on the Tulsa school board. She and Gary Copper are on the ballot Feb. 12 to fill the unexpired term.

Much of her life reflects trends in Tulsa’s schools and neighborhoods over the past 20 years.

She grew up in Puerto Rico and moved to Tulsa more than two decades ago to attend Oral Roberts University. She and husband Kirk Wester, a Broken Arrow native, moved into the Kendall-Whittier area in the 1990s, when she began teaching in the neighborhood school.

They have witnessed the area’s reawakening, in large part because of an influx of Hispanic families and businesses.

Wester is also part of what seems to be a trend — the growing role of non- and for-profit contractors and organizations in keeping kids in school who in the past have fallen by the wayside.

Communities in Schools works with several TPS campuses to provide the support families need to get their kids to class on time and keep them there. Wester said that could be as simple as an early morning phone call or as difficult as homelessness.

“Our students do not come from picture-perfect homes or situations,” she said.

Their problems, though, affect each student and the schools as a whole, Wester said.

“We’ve come to the realization that educators can’t do it all by themselves,” she said. “The demands and the needs of our students have increased to such an extent that teachers aren’t able to do their primary job at times … because they’re having to deal with all of these things.

“By bringing in community resources, (teachers) are able to focus on what they do well and what they do best.”

See this original article HERE in the Tulsa World.