New York City Black Board Teacher Awards Yvette Hinds-Joseph
By Rich Monetti
Coming into each school year, teachers know ahead of time which students are going to present them with a longer list of behavioral problems. Those students think they know something, too, about exerting control over a classroom and teacher. “They come in with the same expectation that they are going to do the same thing to you,” said Yvette Hinds-Joseph, a teacher in P.S. 37, Cynthia Jenkins School, in Queens. But 22 years of successfully turning fourth and fifth graders to her side has little to do with some sort of fear-based learning strategy.
It always begins simplistically, before the bell ends classes on the first day. “I think my strategy is when my kids come in September, I let them know what I expect of them,” she said. That means consistent attendance in a classroom focused on learning.
Still, she admits, for new students they sometimes think that a mean teacher awaits them but that changes as students get to see her for who she really is. “Children know when you have their best interests at heart,” she says, and it certainly helps that having fun is part of her process, she added.
Her true self also comes in a non-verbal manner, according to the colleague who nominated her for the award. Never late, always prepared and dressed to the importance of her life's calling, Joan P. Estick
says, "She also presents herself in such a professional manner that no one can make a mistake as to who she really is." That makes her easily approachable and gives her the ability make a difference to young minds that others may not be able to reach, according to Ms. Estick, who serves as the school’s Parent Coordinator.
It shows in the high number of 4s her students regularly score on standardized tests. “I feel good because I’ve accomplished what I set out to do so I’m proud of the kids and I’m proud of myself,” says Ms. Hinds-Joseph.
On the other hand, producing students who are more than just test takers is an ongoing challenge. As is the challenge of making sure everyone is moving forward. Those who catch on quick to something like long division take on another digit or two in groups. Those getting stuck somewhere in between may simply need a little brush up on multiplication. Otherwise, The York College graduate will pull out the manipulatives so the equality can be seen with the eyes as well as the hands.
For the still less than willing, discipline takes standard forms such as extra homework, calls to parents and taking away privileges. She also employs a group mentality that mixes students who possess leadership abilities with those not following suit. “I match with children who are not doing the right thing and hope they learn from each other,” she says.
22 years of positive results from the more difficult cases comes with an element of sadness, though. “I’m sorry to see them go because you see the growth,” Hinds-Joseph said, adding that hearing from students’
subsequent teachers about continued development certainly helps soften the separation.
All this might sound quite substantial to the non-teachers among us, but the profession is just part of the make up of this 1st generation American who arrived from Guyana in 1972. “I always wanted to be a teacher,” and she made it happen by working full time in personnel for NYPD and going to school full time.
Completing her Masters at Queens College in 1988, higher learning was not necessary to develop a rapport based on dignity and amiability with all the adults who do their part at P.S. 37, according to Ms. Estick.
And she’s always available to provide input and assistance on all matters educational. “Her peers rely on her,” Estick said, and highly value her opinion.
Beyond lesson plans and long division, she hopes that her example will help them lead a meaningful and productive life. “You’ll get there,” she says, she tells them, by doing your best and having respect for yourselves and others.