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High School English Urban Assembly School for the Performing Arts, Manhattan

Felesha teaches 10th-grade English and 11th-grade Honors English at the Urban Assembly School for the Performing Arts in Harlem, a specialized high school that brings core academic subjects to life through the performing arts. She began teaching in 2013, and holds a Bachelor’s in English Literature and Criticism and a Master’s in Adolescent Education from Hunter College.

I Challenge Students to Consider Other Points of View

Our students come from all over the city and many are immigrants from the Caribbean. Their experiences inform how they attack the different texts we read in class. It’s my job as a teacher to present them with opinions of people who might view the world differently. It’s about showing them how a high school student in Harlem might see the world, and then contrasting that with what a German high school student on the other side of the world might experience.

I Choose Texts that Spark Students’ Love of Reading 

I teach many students whose reading skills aren’t where they should be, but watching their progress is great. One of my students was struggling so I tried to speak to his interest as a reader. We read Bad Seed, a short play on whether nurture or nature makes people who they are—and he had a definite opinion on the topic. In the beginning, I’d sit beside him and we’d read it together. By the end of the play, he was reading on his own. When students are moved by what they read, their reading levels and interests grow.

I Use the City to Teach Complex Material

Our school teams up with the Epic Theatre Ensemble to infuse the arts into our class. My students worked with professional actors to perform a remix version of Hamlet, which is tough material. To produce a layman’s version—set in a different time and location—they had to really grapple with the content and learn the play like the back of their hand. At the end, they performed it at Harlem’s National Black Theatre.

I once had a student who struggled with reading say, “I didn't know reading was this interesting. Somebody should have told me sooner.” It was hilarious, but very truthful.