January 23, 2013

Teachers Talk Back: Danielle Bernabe

Danielle teaches 6th grade math in the Bronx.

What inspired you to become a teacher?

I had thought about being a teacher since I was a kid. I had really supportive teachers and they were really influential. In high school I really struggled in pre-calculus and my teacher helped me in more ways than one. I didn’t know this, but my senior year she nominated me for a scholarship awarded to students who wanted to be math teachers. It came as a complete surprise to me! She saw my dedication in math and even though I struggled in her class, she inspired me to work hard because I really wanted to be a math teacher.

Has teaching lived up to what you thought it would be?

It’s been really different. I did my student teaching in the country. While some of the academic struggles are similar, the behavior of my students here in an inner city school is very different. Many of my students come from challenging backgrounds, face peer pressure, and are constantly dealing with the presence of gangs. All of that really affects my students in a way that the students I was teaching when I student taught didn’t have to deal with.

So how have you given your students that extra support?

I give my time. I tutor in the morning and after school. Students who really need extra help will eat lunch with me. I try to make them feel confident in math. There’s one specific student who used to have major behavior issues. As soon as she got a good grade I gave her so much positive feedback and I could see her respond to that. When my students do something good, I try to surround them with positive feedback and not focus on the negative. I think it helps to motivate them.

What do you love about your school?

I love my kids. There’s not one thing. They’re so young, and I want to help them all realize the great potential they all have. They’re just kids, how could you not like them? And they’re really funny.

I often feel that, as a teacher, I have multiple jobs: psychiatrist, counselor, sports coach, etc. I have to watch NBA games so I can talk to the boys and write engaging word problems. I try to turn their passions and interests into math-related conversations. I’ll do anything for these kids!

What does E4E mean for you?

E4E is a support group to talk with other educators who are passionate about their students. And they’re passionate about making a difference not just in their classrooms but also on the larger scale. I think it’s important that, as a teacher, you’re informed on the policies affecting your classroom. E4E has been a place I can come to stay informed and share my passion with other educators.