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The 2022 Newark Teacher of the Year is a model of acceptance in her classroom

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How do teachers excite their students? Here, in a section we call How I Teach, we ask great educators how they approach their work.

When the 2022 Newark Teacher of the Year reflects on her personal experience with the school, she remembers having teachers who created a warm and inviting classroom environment that she looked forward to.

And others who made their classes feel like a daunting task.

So when Jessica Tavares began teaching in Newark Public Schools eight years ago, she made it a point to set an example of acceptance and kindness in her classroom. She knew from personal experience that these qualities were key to inspiring students to learn.

“When you really want to go to school and you feel like you’re accepted, you’re more willing to put in the effort,” Tavares said.

An eighth-grade science teacher at Lafayette Street School was recently named the district’s Teacher of the Year, a recognition she was surprised and honored by.

“She was nominated and selected based on her interdisciplinary approach to teaching that focuses on student growth, which is both challenging and engaging,” said Nancy Dearing, a spokeswoman for the district, in an email announcing the announcement earlier this week. months. “Tavares has a compassion and sensitivity that allows her to connect with her students and others on a personal level.”

Tavares’ approach to modeling acceptance in her classroom as a way to promote learning is also supported by research.

“Students who learn in a positive learning environment that is safe, supportive, and engaging are more likely to improve academically, participate more fully in the classroom, and develop skills that will help them be successful in school and in life,” it said. in the message. National Center for Safe and Favorable Learning Environments.

Tavares recently spoke with Chalkbeat.

This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

Why did you want to become a teacher? Have you always wanted to teach high school science?

For as long as I can remember, I have always wanted to be a teacher and have always loved science. Mixing the two just made sense. But I wasn’t always sure which class I wanted to focus on. When I was younger, my first job was covering after-school and summer programs for a community center in the Newark area. I have had experience with different classes. I found that I was able to connect and make the biggest impact with middle school students. When it came time to become a teacher, I decided that being a high school science teacher would be the best fit for me.

How do you feel about being recognized as Teacher of the Year 2022?

I feel proud. I was very surprised by the award. I never thought that I would be chosen above all the excellent teachers of the district.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received and how did you put it into practice?

The best advice I’ve ever received is to be nice to everyone and treat people the way you want to be treated. Most teachers see their students as children, not always as people. But just like adults, our students have good days and bad days. The hardest student is usually having a bad day or going through a tough time and is feeling down. Most students just need someone nice and understanding. You cannot learn and be successful if you have a negative mindset.

Teaching and showing kindness, compassion and life lessons are sometimes more important than the curriculum we teach in the classroom. Encouraging my students to be good people and show kindness in everything they do is sometimes the best lesson I can teach them.

Tell us about your experience at the school and how it influences your work today.

I had many different experiences in school. I attended Ann Street School here in Newark from kindergarten through eighth grade. In high school, I attended a small private Catholic school. I have been exposed to different teaching styles and environments. Throughout my schooling, I had some great teachers who made me love going to school and some who made going to school the worst ever. I learned a lot from both experiences, all of which have definitely influenced my teaching.

Through all of these experiences, I have come to realize that an inclusive, encouraging, and positive classroom environment helps students learn and persevere. If you really want to go to school and feel accepted, you’re more willing to put in the effort. I try to make all of my students feel like they can be themselves and not worry about being challenged in my classroom. We all need a little extra help from time to time, and it’s okay to ask for it. I try to make all of my students feel comfortable asking me for help, whether it’s in or out of school.

What is your favorite lesson to teach and why?

I think my favorite lesson for my students is not one specific science lesson, but something taught throughout the school year. I try to teach my students to be persistent, be it in life or in science. Many students tend to give up when something seems difficult, but I try to encourage them to keep going.

One of my favorite moments as a teacher is when I see a student who once struggled and wanted to give up start to persevere and become someone who helps others in the classroom. They became more self-confident and learned to take on difficult tasks. Perseverance and never giving up is a lesson I hope they carry with them throughout their lives.

Kathryn Carrera is the Chalkbeat Newark bureau chief, which covers the city’s K-12 schools with a focus on English Language Learners. Contact Kateryna at the address ccarrera@chalkbeat.org.

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