Mariama Sesay-St. Paul
Hi! My name is Mariama Sesay-St. Paul. I am a graduate of Florida A&M University and Rutgers-Newark University. While working on my M.A. in English at Rutgers, I worked as a tutor in the Writing Center and also taught English 101 and 102 to undergraduates. The purpose of those two courses was to help the students pass a departmental writing exam. Over the semesters, I noticed problems with my student’s writing that I didn’t have time to tackle during class. I thought to myself, “If I were a high school English teacher, I’d have time to help my students with these issues.” In 2000, I applied and was accepted into Teach for America. I was placed at Malcolm X Shabazz High School in Newark, New Jersey, in September 2000, and I’ve been here happily ever since.
I firmly believe that students learn more when there is a relationship between them and their teacher. To this end, I not only work hard to make my English classes as fun, engaging, and creative as possible, but I also get to know children through extracurricular activities. At MXS, we have a variety of after school programs for our 1,400-plus students to participate and thrive in. Our marching band, basketball and football teams, JROTC programs, dance team, and fashion club are all top-notch. I’ve found my niche as the junior and senior class advisor, the volleyball coach, assistant girls’ basketball coach, peer leadership advisor, writing ambassador advisor, and “that lady who sells candy.” I know that the relationships fostered in my classroom are strengthened by my participation in all these activities outside of the classroom.
Growing up in a poor, urban setting is not easy for my students. For many, school is a place they come to for safety, food, fun, friendship, and love. Due to other home and community issues, education isn’t always foremost in their thoughts, so their inner motivational flames need a lot of constant fanning. I’m proud to say that the majority of the students who’ve come out of my English I and II, SAT verbal, creative writing, and public speaking classes have been motivated enough by my lessons to put learning first for 80 minutes a day and achieve success in English class. The majority of the students that I taught for both their ninth and tenth grade years passed the English part of the state mandated HSPA test — an obstacle for many of the students in our district.
You’ll notice that the first unit I offer here is based solely on you and your students getting to know one another. I love using and creating lessons and activities that allow you to get to know your students better on both a personal and academic level. The relationships that you build with them inspire them to learn, grow, hope for better things, and become self-motivated. These same relationships will get you through those tough days when the students just plain don’t feel like working. There are many fulfilling moments in teaching, but few are more fulfilling than when a student who used to show up only sporadically now shows up regularly and says to you, "I only came to school today because of your class."