My grandmother was a special ed teacher, an administrator, and one of the most effective communicators I have ever learned from. Every place she walked into became a classroom. Two years after her death I moved to North Carolina, where another set of teachers began to fill the huge void she left. Five high school transfers and a Yale degree later, I found myself back in the classroom where I began a two year teaching fellowship at a boarding school.
Transitioning and relating my experience as a student in public high schools to becoming a faculty member at a boarding school was a bit of a shock, and in some ways my first year of teaching could be described as "drinking water from a fire hose". Yet, I was primed for the challenge throughout most of my life. My grandmother used her way with language to "teach" me and model good teaching in every interaction. She used my voice, curiosity and burgeoning identity as inspiration when she asked questions about random sights or people on the bus or events in the news or when she gave instructions on how to complete a chore. I never got the sense that I was being "instructed" but the words, questions and ideas she introduced me to have only taken deeper root in my mind over time. Without ever saying classism, racism, sexism or any other prejudice you can think of, she gave me some of the first language I acquired to verbalize and process my experiences as a Black and Latina woman.
After my grandmother died, my high school teachers' efforts in aiding the development of my own sense of identity and independence separate from my fractured home life was vital for my survival. In the beginning of my teaching career, I thought that nurturing students, challenging them and being supportive of their growth whatever rate or path it might take throughout my efforts to educate them was enough. After experiencing the demands of the boarding school environment and my first year of teaching, and taking a second look at my first course in education that I received from my grandmother, I have learned that language is at the heart of my pedagogical practice. Meticulous, creative lesson planning and my genuine passion for studying English, writing and creating connections to other disciplines will bring me some of the words necessary to introduce my students to something new, but my manipulation of language is what will free students to use their creativity, to value their voice and uncover new aspects of their identity while they learn.
The beauty of living and working with teenagers is not just their incredible exponential growth, but also their ever increasing ability to express their transformation as if a butterfly could sing a song to capture its chrysalis. The use of a tailored, inclusive and creative language to reach all students is a way to celebrate and to share the excitement of deep, lasting learning with everyone. So often we ask students on assessments to explain their reasoning behind a specific answer, problem or choice, but how do we connect this "demonstration of mastery" to their experience as a problem solver or scholar, or explore the acquisition of new language to describe new knowledge? Beyond content, enduring understandings are created when students' experiences are used as a pathway to a shared, co-created language between the student and teacher. My teachers have gifted me various languages in a variety of disciplines, schools of thought and spheres of life that have not only shaped my thinking, but have also influenced my voice and how I move through society. I can only hope that I can give my students a bit of the same. I intend for my classroom to be a place for students to become lovers of language and learning in whatever wonderful and varied ways they choose to be.
Education & Certification
Undergraduate Degree: Yale University - Bachelor in Arts, English
Graduate Degree: University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education - Masters in Education, Education
ACT Reading: 34
SAT Verbal: 720
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