Teacher Stories: Nikki Ferringo, Global History, Highland Park Middle School, Highland Park, NJ
I realize that at this moment, we are living in history that is going to be in textbooks someday, and I make sure to take the opportunity to help my students explore what’s happening at this time and place in this country. I have had many students ask me how they can get involved, what organizations they can reach out to, because they want to make a difference, and it makes me so proud.
I grew up in a homogenous neighborhood in south Jersey, but when I came to Rutgers in New Brunswick, my eyes were opened and I saw how much I wasn’t aware of as I grew up in my hometown bubble. I started getting involved in activism and raising awareness to social injustices and going to protests, and it really shaped me. I wanted to make a difference, and I realized the best way for me to do that was by becoming a teacher.
As a teacher, I do not tell my kids how to think, but instead ask them questions and help them to learn how to figure out for themselves the answers. When students have questions, I turn it over to my other students to let them come up with answers. I tell my kids at the beginning of every school year, that my classroom is a safe classroom, and that they can have their own opinions and not worry about being singled out by other students.
I am really thankful that I get to teach what I teach during such a tremendous moment in the history of our country. I have students ask me a lot of questions about everything that is going on with social justice, and I try to answer them as best as I can, but I don’t have all the answers. I think we still have some ways to go in this country. I think there are still people who won’t change, but I think we are heading in the right direction.
Interview by Gregory Andrus