I grew up in the South Bronx.
What type of student were you? How would you describe yourself as a kid?
I was inquisitive, I liked school, I was interested in the origin of everything. I felt like I was pretty athletic and I would ride around New York. We would go to Central Park and do a lot of athletic things. A lot of my life was built around that, being athletic. I did a lot of work after school, I did ballet, basketball and other things. My high school was somewhat of a performing arts school. You had to choose the talent you had in 5th grade. They had theater, dance, orchestra, they also had a glee club. I decided I wanted to be in the dance class. A big motivation was that there was a girl in the class that I liked. However, I liked the class too.
If you were a student and had yourself as your teacher, would you meet the standards you hold for your students?
it would be difficult for me to meet the requirements that I set now. The students that I teach now or that I’ve been teaching for 10 years are more focused in school. I was not that academically focused at the time. I wrote poetry, I read, I danced, I played basketball, and most of the time I would be out from 6 in the morning to late at night and so I would go to sleep right away.
What college did you go to?
I went to Trinity College, in Hartford, Connecticut, after I graduated there I went to NYU and that was all.
What was your major in college?
I had a double major. I initially thought that I wanted to be a lawyer and I also really liked literature, and so I chose Political Science and Children’s Literature.
What was the first class you failed?
I felt like the classes in the Bronx were pretty easy and then I moved to a boarding school and the classes got more difficult. I didn’t have a lot of training in the things that they required me to do. There were only 7-8 kids in the classes and it was hard to hide. In New York there were larger class sizes and so I could hide from the work. Actually, I failed two classes that semester and those classes were a humanities class and a math class. I failed them because I was unable to learn or to understand the content, and how to write the essay in the way the teacher wanted me to write it. But by the end of the school year I was able to achieve honor roll because of hard work.
What made you want to be an English teacher?
I fell into it, my whole goal was to teach for a few years then go to law school and be a lawyer. I wanted to help mold the mind of kids to change the world. Working with the children made me realize that I made more of a difference teaching than I would as a lawyer. I decided that I wanted to stick with being a teacher. I also liked writing, especially poetry, and I felt that law school would pull me away from that hobby. As an English teacher I could teach in the classroom and still go out and be an activist.
What is your favorite part of BSGE?
What I enjoy most about BSGE is the freedom that people have to be themselves, both teachers and students, it is really encouraged for people to voice their opinion. I really respect that because only through atmospheres and settings like that can we help them people be more impactful with things that they are passionate about. Limiting them does not help them learn. We want kids to leave here saying, “Hey, I did this.” For as long as I’ve been here the students have been encouraged to be themselves.
Who inspires you?
I never thought that I would be a teacher, the two things that I expected the most were being a basketball player or being a lawyer. I was really affected by a career day in my school and I knew that I wanted to be a lawyer. Malik Sealy (a former NBA player) went to my high school and he visited my school and I remember him saying how he was our height and wasn’t that good, but worked hard to become a basketball player. He was very inspiring. But those are the two things that I thought about, and I never thought of being a teacher. It was never in my mind. After college, I got the opportunity to teach, and I’m still teaching to this day.
Who was your favorite super hero as a kid (and maybe still now)?
I actually liked He-Man. I also liked Lion-O from the ThunderCats. I used to watch these shows everyday when I came home from school. They were very similar characters. To be honest, I was not really into super heroes at the time because I was more into sports and collecting sports cards.
If you were to win the lottery, what would you do with the money? Would you stop teaching?
If it were a million dollars I would invest in some sort of foundation. It would be to help the less fortunate and disadvantaged, the people who have a hard time with their lives. I came from a rough environment, and I feel that if I wasn’t helped by the mentors I had, I could have become violent and dangerous. Those mentors were funded by a foundation and I think that the foundation helped me do things that I could have never done otherwise. I would want to donate to a similar foundation to help other kids like me.