Recently, I spoke with Curriculum Director/Master Teacher Mavgar Mondesir-Gordon who has served Challenge Charter Schools for a number of years. Beyond her current role, she is teaching the 8th Grade Honors ELA class. We talked about her work, role, and vision for this academic year.
Messer: For a Challenge parent, define the ways you are are able to help through being a Master Teacher and Curriculum Director.
Mondesir-Gordon: I am privileged to be in this trusted position serving as the “guard dog” for curriculum standards to ensure that the scholars receive the best instruction through the best practices. Observing teachers daily helps us identify if the curriculum we are using is benefiting our students. I take it very seriously. Having that responsibility, along with the principal and the AP, ensures that we are delivering on Dr. Mullings’ vision for our school.
Messer: With the fulfillment of our charter, we have our first class of 8th graders this year and we are offering 8th Grade Honors ELA. What defines Honors from the standard ELA course?
Mondesir-Gordon: In standard ELA, we teach engage modules following common core standards. It is a rigorous course, and the Honors class takes it one step further. The Honors ELA gives a nod to what an English course looks like in college. We encourage more independent thinking and research. For instance, when a particular book is read, we want a student to ask, “How does this book connect to current events and the world around me?”
We also work on good habits of mind where students can discover, “How do I think? What is a true creative thinker?”
Messer: How does this Honors class help scholars prepare for high school?
Mondesir-Gordon: In Honors, our scholars are learning how to use the MLA and APA style in their writing. They find out the correct way to use citations, how to develop thesis statements, and to develop essays around a thesis. For such a time as this, scholars will read complex texts including To Kill a Mockingbird as we look at the events in Charlottesville, Virginia. We know that we must teach our scholars how to think critically and how to skillfully decide the myth from the truth, and further to look at information and recognize embellishment, so that they can build strong arguments based on facts and empathy.
They will study Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet with language that forces them to re-read for true comprehension. Our Honors students will learn more responsibility and respect for academia, good research habits, and ethics in their work. They will understand what hard and fast deadlines look like. As I say to my students, “It’s not for school, but for life.” We are teaching life habits and guiding principles in all of our classes.
Messer: What are you most excited about for this new academic year?
Mondesir-Gordon: I was blessed to be our founding ELA teacher in 2015, so I have been gifted to help these students ride out empowered to greet the world. In my mind, I want people to ask our scholars when they leave, “Where did you come from?” and for them to be proud to answer, “Challenge Charter Middle School.”
This is a pivotal year in our Middle School and our charter. The atmosphere and social-emotional balance we create is important. We have planned tremendously this summer to ensure that our scholars will have a wonderful year. As for me, it would be a great way to complete a 28th year race in education.
- article by Kim Messer, Executive Director of Communications