'Mean teacher' has a reputation that's more than just tough love

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When a mean teacher isn't really so mean

If you ask around Jack Yates High School, there's a teacher who's tough.

"She's mean. She doesn't understand, she does too much. Just mean, strict."

April LaSalle has been called almost every name in the book -- until her students realize what she's doing.

"It's almost like they were drawn to me more," she said.

Just like them, but 20 years ago, she graduated from the same halls, the same classrooms where she now teaches.

She took us to that very same biology class where she says her teacher gave her much more than the lesson of the day. She got lessons in life.

"My teachers instilled resilience, perseverance," LaSalle explained. "They instilled things in me to be persistent, to be compassionate."

They gave her structure. That's something she says her students crave more than anything.

"A lot of our kids they already associate discipline with love."

After the first week, LaSalle says her students begin to change. She breaks through to them. And she says that's when the real work -- the real teaching -- begins.

She said, "It's teaching them, you know, how to deal with their emotions, coping skills."

"I feel like I can tell her anything and that she will not tell anybody."

Jameya Woodard told ABC13 she wouldn't have made it this far if it wasn't for Mrs. LaSalle.

Life in and out of school is a struggle. But that tough love from Mrs. LaSalle gave her hope and faith.

"I know if she do it, I can do it too," Jameya explained.

For many students the odds are against them. They may be economically disadvantaged, from single parent homes with little motivation. But they have someone who "gets them."

"I really believe this is my God-given purpose," LaSalle said. "It is. I love it too much. This is what I do.

This is when you see the 'mean teacher' for who she really is.

"When you box yourself in to what type of teacher you're going to be, you are limiting yourself, which means you're limiting what your students can get from you."

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educationFoti High Fiveteacherhouston isdHISDschoolback to schoolHouston
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