Changing Perceptions for Scholar Growth

Jillian Sansivero is an eleventh grade, AP Language teacher, at Uplift Hampton.  She started her career teaching a full day at Martin Luther King Jr. High School for Law, Advocacy and Community Justice in New York, while attending Teachers College at Columbia University.  Teaching and attending classes full-time, became an almost overwhelming task as she tried to keep up with paperwork, writing lesson plans, grading hundreds of papers and keeping up with parents.  It was an important lesson for Ms. Sansivero.

“I quickly learned that if I focused on one main “pillar” a week in my lesson planning I felt much less overwhelmed. Now that I have taught full time for a while, I place more emphasis on the execution than the planning,” she explained.

Since she arrived at Uplift Hampton she has been executing a number of innovative projects that drive higher thinking in her scholars.  She is the co-teacher for the Gates Blended Learning Pilot, and she has been successful building writing skills for her scholars.  She is also teaching an incredible unit about the Stonewall Riots that is pushing her scholars to think differently about civil rights.  One of her favorite subjects to teach are those that challenge scholars to re-think commonly held perceptions.

“I decided to teach the graphic novel Persepolis because I realized that my student’s understanding of the Middle East was very limited. Many of them held false ideas of the culture a very limited understanding of these distortions. I saw this as the perfect opportunity to teach rhetoric and Edward Said’s Orientalism. It was amazing to see how their perceptions of Iran, Islam and the Middle East changed in just a few months,” she noted.

Ms. Sansivero has had many excellent teaching role models throughout her life.  Her mother was a teacher’s aide in a kindergarten classroom in central Massachusetts, but she never thought she would teach young children.  From the age of 13 she wanted to teach English at a high school and she credits her sophomore English teacher for solidifying her desire to teach English.

“My English teacher was the wisest person that I had met in my life and shaped how I looked at the world from the day we met. She took a personal interest in me and began to push me to begin writing pieces for the school newspaper. I wasn’t the top student in my English classes, but I was certainly the most passionate,” She further explained.

She brings a similar passion to her classroom every day and is thankful for the freedom she has to innovate at Uplift Education.

“I am fortunate that I have the freedom to choose the material that I teach for each unit whereas many teachers in other districts are limited. I never go with anything that is easy or comfortable for my students. I like to challenge them to look at the world in a different way even if it means having awkward reactions and encounters,” Ms. Sansivero said.

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