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Middle School English Mott Hall Bridges Academy, Brooklyn

Renee began her career at New York City Public Schools more than 20 years ago as a kindergarten teacher. She currently teaches sixth-grade English Language Arts at Mott Hall Bridges Academy in Brownsville, Brooklyn.

Learning Is a Two-Way Street in My Classroom

I always tell my students, "We all know something and we all don’t know something.” They teach me the latest things—a new slang word, or a new trend—and in turn I teach them, too. Getting to know my students personally helps me when it is time to teach more challenging concepts since the trust is already established. So when it comes to learning something difficult, they know I have their best interest at heart.

The Community Brings My Lessons to Life

The diversity in different neighborhoods is an incredible resource. When I worked with elementary children we did a social studies unit where each child had to study a different aspect of Indian culture like food or clothing. I’d built a relationship with an owner of Baluchi's in Park Slope and he let the whole class come and make naan. (There was flour everywhere!) The fact that he did that for the children was amazing.

This Job is Not Your Average 9 to 5

Most of my growth had to do with the children and the diversity of the challenges they face. I learned quickly that this job is more than teaching students to read and write. If a student is hungry, you need to feed them before they can learn. If a child went through something at home, you might need to give them a moment. It's a package. I became a better teacher when I realized you can't separate academic aspects from social-emotional learning. 

The diversity in different neighborhoods is incredible. I can take my students to parts of Queens to see a completely new culture. There's something different a train ride away.