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“History is Now:” A Day in the Life of Remote Teaching With Ms. Cabrera

When Jo’Nella Ellerbe Cabrera started her position as a founding history teacher at KIPP Newark Lab High School in 2019, she never thought she would be teaching remotely before the end of that school year. But a global pandemic had other ideas—and her and her students found themselves living through a historic event, while they studied the past.

Recently, Ms. Cabrera, who teaches AP World History, took over our Instagram account to share her day as a teacher during remote learning. From self-care (kickboxing, anyone?) and deep classroom discussions, to training new teachers and supporting her students’ community service projects—she invites you to step inside a day in the life of a KIPP NJ educator during COVID-19, below.

6:30AM: During these difficult times, it’s so important to prioritize mental and physical health—and for me, that means my day starts with kickboxing class at CKO Newark!

8:00AM: I head back to my home teaching station to touch base with Marion Easley, a Teacher-In-Residence who I mentor. We set our teaching plan for the day and I offer any feedback from the day before. Our Teacher-In-Residence program provides an on-ramp to a teaching career and certification for new teachers! You can learn more about it here.

8:30AM: It’s time for a Grade Team Huddle. One thing I love about KIPP NJ is how much we value and support our teammates. This is demonstrated every day as our grade team discusses updates and best classroom practices. Our group name is “10th Grade: The Best Team” and we are just that—we even have a hand signal!

8:45AM: It’s time for Student Advisory Period! I graduated from Brown University, so my students call themselves the ‘Brownies Advisory Group’ (we also love brownies, the dessert!). I value the advisory period with our students so much. We talk about everything from what life is like on a college campus, to current events. Today, students are presenting a collage they made about their plans for their future careers—and the philosophies that drive them. I appreciate that at KIPP NJ, we value not just academic achievement, but personal growth. Advisory offers a space for that type of learning and reflection to happen!

9:00AM -11:00AM: Today, my AP World History students are writing their Document Based Question essays comparing the similarities and differences between the Ottoman and Mogul Empires. But usually, we spend a lot of time in classroom discussions—and recently, those discussions were featured on NJTV. Check out this clip of our classroom to see my Historians-in-Training in action! Our goal at KIPP Lab High School is to prepare students for success in college—and offering them a rigorous high school experience with AP classes is an important part of that preparation.

11:15 AM: After entering grades and providing student feedback, I like to eat a healthy lunch (an Asian-inspired chicken salad was this Sunday’s meal prep!), and then I head out for a walk. Afterwards, I review student work for possible misconceptions they might have based on how the previous lessons were taught. I also discuss what my Teacher in Residence should “stamp” for his students when he teaches a section and I follow up on text messages from students and their families. Family communication is extra important during online instruction.

1:00PM: After one more class, it’s time for Social Justice Club, one of the best parts of my week! This is a new club myself and 9th grade ELA teacher Devin Rice started a few weeks ago. Already students are organizing a canned food drive at the school for members of the Newark community who are food insecure. Today, students are collecting the canned goods from the school for distribution. I’m proud to work at a school and network where we give back to the local community and empower our students to be agents of change!

3:00PM: After school, I work on my graduate coursework. I’m pursuing my second master’s degree in Educational Leadership from Fordham University’s School Building Leader Program, with the goal of becoming a school leader, ideally at KIPP NJ! Recently, we’re studying what it looks like to build culturally-responsive schools. I’m also writing a ‘problem of practice’ about students with disabilities and how to support their success on DBQ paragraphs for AP exams. I’m lucky to work for a network that supports my development as a teacher and leader.

5:00PM: After a long day, I like to settle down with tea and a good book! Right now I’m readying Poems from a Puerto Rican Heart by my mother and inspiration, Ellie Cabrera. This poetry book was curated during the pandemic and is #1 on Amazon New Releases for Hispanic & Latin American & Caribbean Literature. My mother, an Early Childhood Administrator was a huge motivator to become an educator. I would love to publish a book of poetry or memoir of my years as a teacher one day! It was a blast to show you my world. Stay safe and remember: History is now!