November 11, 2015

Teachers Talk Back: Dave Weinreb

Dave Weinreb is a first year fifth and sixth grade bilingual education teacher at Fair Haven School in the Fair Haven neighborhood of New Haven, CT. In this conversation with E4E-Connecticut Outreach Director Lauren Koster, he shares his experience as a New Haven educator.

This interview has been condensed and edited.

Lauren Koster (LK): When did you know you wanted to become a teacher and why?

Dave Weinreb (DW): I have wanted to work with children since I started volunteering at an afterschool program when I was 13 years old. My first professional experience was at The Equity Project (TEP) in New York City, where I worked in various roles for five years. As my work brought me in more direct contact with students, I realized that what excited me about education was both curriculum development and building strong student-teacher relationships. It was about three years ago when I decided I wanted to make my way to the classroom – and I’m very happy to be here.

LK: What do you love most about teaching in New Haven thus far?

DW: I most enjoy working with my students. All are recent arrivals from Spanish-speaking places, meaning they have been here for 0-10 educational months. For my students, I am their first teacher in their new home, which is a really powerful opportunity with enormous responsibility. I’m enjoying building relationships with families and aligning on our goals for their kids.

I’m also really nerdy about curriculum; sequencing knowledge in order to build understanding is a fascinating process! If I want to teach elements of sound, pitch, and tone, I need to first determine the logical order of skills so my students can best engage in the content. Last, but definitely not least, I love my colleagues. I am tremendously grateful for how much they’ve supported me as a first year teacher.

LK: Tell me a little bit about your students, particularly their experiences coming from diverse Spanish-speaking places.

DW: My students range in age from eight to 13 and have emigrated from four different countries, as well as Puerto Rico. They are all considered to be in the fifth or sixth grades. Some of my students’ families have been here for many years, but this was their first opportunity for their children to immigrate. As a class, they love reading, going to the library, and using technology. Fortunately, we have laptops for every student in our class thanks to a Donors Choose project. Online content provides an individualized learning experience that my students really crave.

LK: We are in the midst of our school climate and discipline advocacy work in New Haven. What’s your classroom climate philosophy?

DW: We operate as a community and, as such, created four community agreements that we say every morning. Our community agreements serve as our benchmarks of personal growth. We agree to explore our world, celebrate growth, radiate kindness, and honor difference. I see my role as an implementer of socio-emotional—as well as academic—learning, and our community agreements represent that.

LK: Why did you join E4E and what most excites you about your membership?

DW: Broadly, I am always interested in learning about education advocacy organizations, and only through membership will I best understand the inner-workings, policies, and perspectives of an organization. Learning and watching are my ethos. As an E4E member, I aim to engage in conversations around school finance and understand how the system in which I educate my students operates. I have a responsibility to understand my city, and New Haven Public Schools provides me with ample opportunities to gain understanding.

LK: What does your ideal education system look like?

DW: An excellent education provides ample opportunity for students to gain access and exposure to how our world operates. It’s extremely important to me that my students have twenty-first century skills, which they gain by getting out of their desks, taking field trips, and interacting with guest speakers. I also believe we can still value our Spanish language and culture while developing strong English language skills. Of course, an excellent education also requires excellent teachers, who thus need resources and support. I appreciate those things as much as ever now as a new teacher.