More than two dozen community leaders will be heading back to school on Tuesday to serve in city schools as teachers for a day. Organized by the teachers’ union, the day will allow community leaders to “walk a mile” in school teachers’ shoes.
Schools will accommodate 27 guest teachers. Each will spend their day in the classroom and perform all the normal duties of a teacher.
“The Teacher for a Day program presents an excellent opportunity for community members to see what today’s students and schools are all about,” said John McEntee, Jr., president of the Paterson Education Association, teachers’ union, on Friday.
McEntee said each guest teacher has the option to use an existing lesson plan or develop their own.
“Education has changed greatly since most of us went to school, and it is important for the community to understand those changes in order to plan effectively for meeting the future needs of Paterson students,” said superintendent Eileen Shafer. “Teachers play such an important role in the life of a child, and it will be wonderful for our students to see their community leaders serve in this capacity.”
Shafer will be spending the day in a classroom as well.
Some of the community leaders expressed enthusiasm at the prospect of spending a day in the classroom.
“I’ll be honest to you. I’m kind of excited to get back into the classroom and talking to kids,” said assemblyman Benjie Wimberly on Monday morning. He last taught in the classroom 20 years ago as a special education teacher.
Wimberly will be teaching history as a guest teacher at Eastside High School. He said the day will serve as a “reality check.”
Wimberly sits on the Joint Committee on the Public Schools. He said the experience will inform his work on the committee.
“I’m nuts about it,” said Rosie Grant, executive director of the Paterson Education Fund, who will be teaching in a fifth-grade language arts classroom. “It’s not an experience I have had before.”
Grant said the classroom experience will help her to better advocate for school children. Her organization advocates for Paterson students locally and at the state level. She has been paired up with a teacher and has exchanged emails in preparation for Tuesday, she said.
Grant will be teaching at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Elementary School.
“We get to see how Paterson teachers go through the day educating our youth,” said Al Abdelaziz, a member of Paterson Planning Board. “I want to see how it is to be a teacher and what struggles they and their kids go through.”
Abdelaziz, who is an athletics supervisor at Passaic City school district, attended School 9. He will be teaching fifth-grade math at the Hani Awadallah School.
“I gotta open up my math books,” quipped Abdelaziz.
Abdelaziz has taught in the classroom at Passaic County Technical Institute (PCTI). “There are different dynamics in different districts and different schools,” he said.
The guest teachers will work under the guidance of cooperating teachers, said McEntee.
“We applaud the participants in our Teacher for a Day program for setting aside valuable personal time to demonstrate their commitment to the teachers and students of this community,” said McEntee. “We know it will be time well spent and an enjoyable day for all.”
The teachers’ union organized the teacher for a day in conjunction with the district.
Other community leaders serving as teachers for a day are school board members Oshin Castillo, Manny Martinez, Nakima Redmon, Jonathan Hodges; council members Andre Sayegh, Maritza Davila, Ruby Cotton; former school board members Chrystal Cleaves, Lilisa Mimms; freeholders Theodore “TJ” Best, Sandi Lazzara; police lieutenants Sharon Easton, Dalton Price; assemblywoman Shavonda Sumter, library director Corey Fleming, mayoral candidate Pedro Rodriguez, pastor Douglas Maven, Passaic County Retired Educators Association president Sue Deile, county superintendent of schools Christopher Irving, Linda Wilson of the Passaic County Board of Social Services, parent Robert Scott, district administrator Kemper McDowell, and retired librarian Brenda Thomas.
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Report updated at 3:05 p.m.