September 2, 2014
By: Megan Moskop
This is my 6th year as a Special Education teacher at the best middle school in America. I’m biased of course, but I love working at MS324, which is a public middle school in Washington Heights, a Latin-American neighborhood in northern Manhattan. In addition to my daily work of helping students recognize their value, intelligence, and potential for success, I help our 8th grade students and families navigate the NYC high school admissions process.
I spend my “free time” as an active member of the Movement of Rank and File Educators, the social justice caucus of the United Federation of Teachers (NYC’s teachers union), and as the “Learning Labs Director” of the Manhattan Young Democrats.
Through these and other community-based organizations, I strive to be an advocate for educational systems and polices that will help our students thrive. Majoring in ICS prepared me uniquely to listen, learn, grow, build community, and share knowledge all over the world, or, where I am right now, in a very worldly corner of the world.
At Duke, the flexibility of ICS allowed me to simultaneously pursue my passions for working with youth, for exploring the world, and for sharing stories.
Through various Research-Service-Learning courses, I volunteered with several programs in the Durham public schools. With my “Women as Leaders” course in public policy, I mentored girls at Brogden Middle School. Through Educational Psychology, I tutored a fourth grader at Watts Elementary, and my junior year, through a Collaborative Art course at the Center for Documentary Studies, I led an afterschool art program at Club Boulevard Elementary School.
My largest community-based project at Duke, however, began my sophomore year in a class called “Durham’s Black Wall Street.” The focus of that class became my Documentary Studies Certificate “Capstone” project, and continued even beyond my graduation. Under the guidance of Barbara Lau, then at CDS, I worked with local historians and archivists at NC Central University, UNC, and the North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company to conduct oral history interviews with African-American businesswomen in Durham and across the south. Radio Documentary classes with John Beiwin, and a web-design class I took to satisfy math requirements taught me how to present and share those stories, both on Duke’s own WXDU and in a web exhibit: http://paulimurrayproject.org/durhamstories/bwswomen/.
My senior year at Duke, I worked towards bringing city and campus activists together by sharing information, co-sponsoring events, and hosting parties under the auspices of the Duke Progressive Alliance.
Away from home base in Durham, Duke provided me with even more opportunity to serve and learn. As a rising sophomore, the Benjamin N. Duke Scholarship program partnered me with the Boys and Girls Club in Aynor, South Carolina, a two-stoplight town on the way to Myrtle Beach. There, I spent the summer designing playgrounds, making monsters, and supervising seascapes with children aged 3 to 16. My junior year, while studying abroad in Perugia, Italy with the Umbra Institute, I volunteered as an English Tutor at the local Montessori School.
Perhaps my most formative lesson in global thought and local action, however, came when I taught English for three months at a school for Tibetan Orphans in Kathmandu, Nepal. My students and host family taught me to breathe deeply, seek simplicity, live in laughter and joy, and spend each day working hard for myself and for those around me.
Just after graduation in 2008, I continued to teach and learn globally as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant in Malta. There, I worked closely with the cultural ambassadors at the US Embassy, officials in the department of education, and teachers and students across the island. A typical week in Malta involved traveling on antique yellow buses from one end of the island to the other, reading stories at a village primary school, playing football at an all-boys secondary school, and rounding out some days at University of Malta where I co-taught a “professional communication” course and studied Arabic and Art Education.
All of these formative experiences through ICS and Duke brought great perspective to my current work within the New York City School System. In 2009, when I began teaching here, I was prepared to navigate, and learn from the complex cultural interactions I faced on a daily basis. To learn more about how to help my students do the same, I attended Hunter College, where I received an M.S. in Special Education, further expanding my capacity for understanding and problem solving. Teaching still challenges me, and I continue to learn from my community every day. You can follow some of my learning on twitter @msmoskop.