Precious Huff-Acosta, Fords Middle School, Woodbridge Township, Language Arts
Shakespeare and Poe are some of my favorite authors, especially Shakespeare. Their writing is timeless. It is as relevant today as it was when they were written. Humans are dealing with the same issues now as they were back in their day. I read Romeo and Juliet with my 8th graders last year, and it really connected with them. Two young people want to be together, but the parents do not agree with their choice, and my students could relate to that.
When we read Edgar Allen Poe, we talk about mental illness, and how that subject is as important today as it was back then. My students will sometimes speak up in class and share their own unique experiences in relation to what we are discussing in class. I encourage them to open up. If it is something that they can connect with, I want them raising their hands.
Speaking up is important to me. I was a loner growing up, very introverted. I was always very shy. I never wanted to socialize. In college I didn’t do the parties, and I feel like I missed out on a lot. But what I do with my students, when I see a student is shy; I try to get them away from it. I still deal with shyness with my own peers, and I know how limiting it is. So when I see a student who is introverted, I tell them, ‘You can do this. You are going to get up, and you are going to speak out,’ and I give them a pep talk. I give them everything they need to overcome their shyness, even though I still struggle with it myself, because I want them to grow and develop and not get stuck.
I am the youngest of my siblings, and they are much older than me, and I didn’t have a lot of friends growing up. I remember how hard it was for me. I went to a small Catholic school growing up. In my 8th grade graduating class there were only eight of us that graduated. Then I went to a small all girls’ Catholic high school. But then I went to Rutgers for college, and it was a shock how many students there were. I literally stayed in my room because I never before saw so many people in one place.
Even here now at this [NJEA] convention, I am a bit out of my comfort zone. But I am here. I tell my students, they don’t have to be the life of the party, but don’t be afraid to speak up. I tell the shy ones, that they are not strange, nor are they odd. I want them to accept that that is who they are, but at the same time, they have a voice, and they need to use it if they have something to say.
- Interview and photo by Gregory Andrus.
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