Noyce Alumni Profile
Undergraduate major or graduate field of study: B.E., Biomedical Engineering, M.E., Engineering Management; MAT, Master's of Arts in Teaching
Category of scholarship/fellowship:
Name of Noyce institution:
William Paterson University
Current teaching assignment (school and district):
Hoboken High School, Hoboken, NJ; Biomedical Sciences, grades 9-12
What made you decide to become a teacher?
A few years ago, I met a student at my church. Our friendship turned into a strong mentoring relationship that sparked my interest in teaching. I believe that the reason we are blessed is so we can bless others. I had the privilege of receiving an excellent education in high school and college and also greatly benefitted from numerous teachers who motivated and invested in me throughout my life in order to develop my mind and get me to where I am today. Only now I realize the great impact they had, not only on my academics, but also on my character, mental development, and abilities. I am extremely grateful. This student did not have the privileges that I grew up with. I took it upon myself to mentor him as others had done for me. I encouraged him to study for the SATs, apply to college, and register for classes. Essential role models and habits were absent from his childhood which made these tasks difficult, however, I found working with him to be the most joyful, rewarding, and exciting thing that I had ever done. I wanted more opportunities to pass my blessings forward and experience that same joy so began to look into a teaching career during my senior year at Stevens Institute of Technology. I completed a degree in biomedical engineering and then applied and was accepted into the Woodrow Wilson Teaching Fellowship and became a Noyce Scholar at William Paterson University. I realize that these specific events led me to make the switch to a teaching career. I have zero regrets.
Describe your current teaching assignment.
I am beginning my fifth year of teaching at Hoboken High School, the only secondary school in the Hoboken (NJ) Public Schools. The majority of our 9th through 12th graders are students of color who are economically disadvantaged. At Hoboken High, I helped develop the Project Lead the Way (PLTW) Biomedical Science curriculum. I am trained and certified to teach all four Biomedical Science courses and have been able to help other educators (new and experienced) with the curriculum. I pass my knowledge to others with joy, knowing that they will be able to better educate their students. As a volleyball coach, I led our boys’ team to their first win in the team history as well as two consecutive record setting seasons. I believe servant leadership is the most loving type of leadership. During lunch, my classroom is always open. Many students have found a “home” there. Students from all grades and backgrounds have come together during this communal time. Seeing the students open up with one another, feel safe, and enjoy each other’s company has been one of my greatest joys while teaching.
How did the Noyce program prepare you for this assignment?
Being a Noyce Scholar at William Paterson University shaped my view on what it means to be a teacher. I served as a student teacher at a high-need school for 8 months while completing my master’s. I was given much of the classroom teacher responsibilities early on in my student teaching assignment. It was difficult, but I learned everything I needed to know for my first year of teaching. My professors at William Paterson gave me the encouragement and advice I desperately needed during student teaching. The biggest lesson the teaching program taught me was to make the classroom have the feeling of a community—like a home. Students should feel a sense of responsibility toward each other and to the overall progress of the classroom. By accomplishing individual tasks, the students can experience community, interdependence, group work, and cooperation which will carry over to other aspects of practical living. I believe the key words for describing student tasks are “important” and “constructive.” Students should know whether their actions and opinions impact the classroom or not. Students must be given enough responsibility and see that they are a vital part of the classroom “body.” My classroom is structured like a home, and each one of my classes feels like a family. We work together to accomplish the same goals. Education begins when individuals communicate, take personal responsibility, and work together. It has been difficult to do this during remote learning. I will be teaching a hybrid class in fall 2020 so will see how I can create some aspect of this.
Did the Noyce program at your university prepare you to use teaching strategies that can help all students learn in all settings?
I am very particular about how I share the content I teach. Without the Noyce program at William Paterson, I don’t think I would be aware of how the names and examples I use in class affect the students’ connection to the curriculum. I make it a point to modify my curriculum in such a way that the students can see themselves in the content. My students sometimes giggle and are surprised when I use Spanish words or have a picture on the screen of a Hoboken landmark when trying to explain a concept. It definitely requires more time and thought to create a culturally responsive curriculum, but I have seen the results of this work in my students’ knowledge and engagement year after year.
How do you use what you’ve learned (content and pedagogy)?
As a Noyce scholar, I was interested in project-based learning and using curriculum where students can apply their learning to real-world problems. One of the lessons that reflects what I have learned from Noyce is our annual PTLW Diabetes Innovation Presentations. Every year, the 9th graders are presented with a situation: a family has established a grant, in memory of their daughter, that will provide $1 million to a company that has promising research or innovation in the field of diabetes. Students must design an innovation that helps diabetics treat, manage, or even cure their disease and present their ideas to win the research grant. Students group themselves into individual “companies,” perform background research, determine the market need, create a prototype, and finally present their innovations. A panel of judges with different career backgrounds is invited to choose the best innovation. In the last few years, representatives from the Junior Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) have served as judges. They have diabetes themselves and provide students with real feedback about their projects. This year, students were tasked with raising money for the JDRF through school-wide fundraisers; the 9th graders raised over $750 and had the experience of being part of something much bigger than themselves! They were able to see how the content and their learning can make a real impact on their community.
In addition to teaching, are you exploring new areas in content, teaching strategies, leadership, etc. If so, what areas and did the Noyce experience play a role?
As an alumni of Stevens Institute of Technology, I am able to bring my students to campus so they can meet with Biomedical Engineering students to hear about their experiences in college. We also visit research labs where the supervising professors discuss their research with my students. I am a member of the Faculty Council for the National Honors Society, the School Climate Transformation Project team, and the Future Ready Schools Committee. The latter is a program that seeks to increase school modernization efforts. Our school obtained certification from this organization—I helped collecting documentation and implemented new technology standards. I was also chosen as a chaperone for a Classroom Without Walls trip to Japan.
Describe any highlights/special achievements during these beginning years of teaching?
I was chosen for the Woodrow Wilson Teaching Fellowship while at William Paterson University. In school year 2019-2020, I was selected as Educator of the Year at Hoboken High School.