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November 08, 2019
As an IB Language and Literature and Freshman Composition teacher, Angelique Jewell draws from her many years of teaching overseas to promote inclusivity in her classroom and bring students together across cultural divides. We sat down with her to learn more about her path to Léman and how she feels the IB Diploma Programme is preparing her students to become open-minded global citizens. You can read her entire faculty profile here.
Please tell us about your path to Léman.
I went to Columbia University where I studied Latin American Studies and African American Studies. I realized I loved working with young people, so after I graduated, I worked in a youth center for a year. I then moved to Italy where I taught in an adult language center. When I came back to the United States, I started to work for Prep for Prep in their undergraduate affairs division. After that, I went to graduate school at the University of Pennsylvania, which I chose because of their focus on urban education. I got my master’s in education and then taught in Philadelphia public schools for four years. I then moved to Houston where I taught high school for three years, and then I moved to Milan, Italy, where I taught at the Bilingual European School. After moving back to the United States briefly because my father was ill, I decided to go overseas again to China, where I was a teacher and the foreign director of an international program at Jxnu Sino in Nanchang. When I decided I wanted to leave China, I was looking at jobs in Brazil, Rome, and the Cayman Islands, but when I attended the ISS Fair in San Francisco, I met Lucy Alexander, who asked me to attend the Léman information session. As soon as I learned more about the school, I felt like it was meant to be. I loved the fact that it was an international school in New York City. I felt like the school was a very good fit for me, so I was thrilled to have the opportunity to join this community.
You are a world traveler! What do you bring to the classroom from your time overseas?
I think the experience of living in different cultures allows me to promote inclusivity to all my students, and I can help them understand that there is not just one experience, but a variety of experiences, and I try to include those cultural practices in my classroom. For example, my experience in China has been helpful as I have several Chinese students in my classes and I understand what a massive transition it is for them to come study in the United States. Because I’m familiar with the high school culture in China, which is very different from ours, I can help ease that transition for them. I make it a priority to help students understand that when they share ideas in class, they must do it comprehensibly because they are not necessarily only speaking to other native speakers. It is not only important that I am aware of that in my own presentation but to teach that to my students as well.
What do you like about being an educator in an IB School?
One of the things that really attracted me to Léman was the fact that it is an IB school. I really like the fact that the IB focuses on creating globally-minded citizens who are trying to positively change the world. Kids can really draw on what we’re doing in the classroom and see that it is applicable to their lives. Our first unit was about cultural identity and language, and we’ve already talked about privilege, sexual orientation and gender in my classroom. I love the fact that in an IB classroom there is a lot of flexibility about what novels and texts we teach as long as we cover certain concepts. I used to teach AP and I like that the IB is not just focused on the assessment, as the AP is.
What do you hope your students take with them from your classroom as they transition to college?
I hope that they gain an appreciation for words, language and literature. I think that literature is such a valuable mirror through which we can understand ourselves as humans. More than anything, I want my students to feel like they come away first that I care a lot about them, and I’m invested in their success. I keep in touch with many of my middle and high school teachers and their encouragement played a big part in who I am today, and I think back on some of the things that they did for me and the ways that they supported me. I really hope that my students see me in the same way. I also hope that they develop a value for thinking critically and not just for looking at things on the surface. I really want them to know that there’s more to everything than what you see. I want them to feel that they are able to tackle anything that they want to learn. I don’t want them to be intimidated by knowledge. I want them to see it as a resource and a tool. What we do in the classroom is just teach them the skills that they can use to navigate the world around them. I wanted to go into education because my teachers made me realize that education was a meaningful profession. It was a profession that could have a real impact. Even if it’s not teaching, I hope that my students choose to do something in their lives that is meaningful to them.
What is your educational philosophy?
I was trained in a constructivist program, so I believe in the teacher as a coach and a guide and not necessarily as the sage on the stage. I believe in collaborative learning. My master’s thesis was about the importance of building community to sustain collaboration. My students do a lot of work together using inquiry to arrive at an understanding of the subject matter they are studying. I think we should question everything and learn to be collaborative and communicative.
What do you like to do in your free time?
I love to travel and to read. My all-time favorite author is James Baldwin and I also love Toni Morrison. I recently got into a Vietnamese poet named Ocean Vuong. I also love watching movies and cooking. I love intellectual, academic conversations, as well as pop culture, anything that I feel is going to enrich me as a person and an educator. It’s really exciting for me to be back in New York where there are so many wonderful cultural opportunities.