TEACHER VOICES

A Call to Education

I am a Jersey City native and graduate of Jersey City Public Schools. As a young student, I realized education offered me a world of opportunities, but this realization didn’t come about overnight. It was nurtured by talented teachers who knew how to explain the true value that education provides. The teachers who impacted my life the most were those who challenged me to work hard and set big goals. My teachers were sincerely committed to helping me reach my full potential. 

At Liberty High School, I had a teacher named Ms. Davis, who showed me how important one educator can be in a child’s life. Ms. Davis was an education maven, with a knack for sparking academic curiosity. She introduced the class to the power of literature and pushed us to work harder to achieve our goals. To pass her class, you had to put in the work and learn. Ms. Davis had high expectations for every student in her class, and we reached new heights because it was clear that she was pushing us because she cared about us. Ms. Davis, ultimately, inspired me to become a high school English teacher.

Ms. Davis didn’t have to be so dedicated, but she was. She didn’t have to do everything in her power to help us succeed inside and outside of her classroom, but she did. Ms. Davis is a Black woman, and her influence played a major factor in my life. Meeting Ms. Davis not only helped me realize my dream of becoming a teacher, but helped me see that my dream could come true if I put in the work with tenacity and consistency. Ms. Davis showed me how teachers impact Jersey City, and for this reason I have always wanted to give back to my community through education. I decided to become a teacher to support Jersey City students, and I now have the privilege to teach at one of its schools, Henry Snyder High School. When I first received my job in the district, I leaned into my experience as a former Jersey City learner to connect with my students.  

My philosophy on education

All students can learn, and they deserve teachers who are willing to go the extra mile to support them. 

I have been teaching for nine years, primarily as a ninth-grade teacher. I love working with freshmen and believe that the first year is the most important year of a high schooler’s academic life. Ninth-graders leave the comfort of middle school and are pushed to mature in a matter of months to deal with the academics, social, and emotional adjustments that come with high school. Like Ms. Davis demonstrated all those years ago, I am here to inspire my students and push them to reach their goals.   

It is my passion to reach my students where they are and challenge them to push past what they think they can do. As an English teacher, I am not interested in having students simply memorize content. I focus on teaching students skills through projects, so they can take what they have learned and apply it to their future academic and career aspirations. This goes for both academic skills and the social skills students need beyond the classroom. I feel compelled to teach students about the real-life experiences they will face once they leave my classroom. My students are faced with unique challenges daily. Some of those challenges can hinder the learning process, but I have found ways to incorporate those real-life experiences into their daily learning.

This phase of my teaching journey has been wonderful. I’ve seen first hand how reaching students where they are helps them become active, contributing citizens of Jersey City and the world. I look forward to continuing to grow in my craft so I can make changes, policies, and curriculum that best supports and prepares students of color.

About the author

Tynetta Harris
Tynetta Harris
Tynetta Harris teaches English Language Arts in New Jersey’s Snyder High School. Tynetta has been an educator for over 9 years and believes it is important for students to be prepared for both professional and academic success. Tynetta Harris is also distinguished as one of the 2018 Teachers of the Year. Follow her on Twitter: @EducatorTDot