Teacher Tribute
Demonstrating democratic process in a 5th grade classroom

Judy Acevedo, Antonia Pantoja Charter School

A piece of missing furniture in Judy Acevedo’s classroom at Antonia Pantoja Charter School in the Hunting Park neighborhood of North Philadelphia reveals much about the teaching style of this Need in Deed teacher, now in her 3rd year of involvement. There is no teacher’s desk!

“That’s because I move around the room a lot,” laughs Judy. But there’s a lot more to the story.

The NID staff met Judy in 2008 when she was teaching at Taylor Elementary School, a traditional public school in Hunting Park. She applied to and was accepted into NID’s Teacher Network. The next year she transferred to Pantoja – one of four schools in the District run by Aspira – the local arm of a national nonprofit dedicated to developing the educational and leadership capacity of Hispanic youth. She decided to complete her two-year Network training as a member Pantoja’s faculty.

The following year she convinced her principal to apply for NID’s Charter School Consortium, so sold was she on the benefits NID’s service-learning process would bring to the school. This year five teachers are guiding their 180 students through NID service-learning projects.

“[NID’s framework] starts off the school year building community and helping students get to know each other. It values students as individuals. And it gives them a voice. We’ve become a family now; we look out for each other. That sense of family makes all the difference in teaching,” said Judy.

Now in her third year of using the “My Voice” framework, Judy has noticed “student voice”infiltrating her teaching practice.

She has made Friday “Choice Day.” Students get to pick their own reading buddies, for example, rather than being assigned one. She’s also noticed herself responding more to student voice in the course of instruction.

“Recently,” she explained, “in preparation for the PSSA’s [state standardized tests] we were studying a concept in Everyday Math that the students told me was difficult. ‘Miss, can’t we stop and spend more time on this?’ they asked. I listened to them. Rather than move onto the next lesson we got out the PSSA ‘coach book’ and I looked for different ways to explain the concept.”

The positive give and take between teacher and students was expressed in a different way recently when her students surprised her with a chocolate birthday cake.

“They knew chocolate was my favorite!” said Judy. Clearly her students had been listening, too.