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Mr. Messina, English Teacher and Council Coach

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Describe your educational background (high school onward).

I went to St. Peter’s, which is a Jesuit High School based out of Jersey City. I went to Catholic or private schools for my entire life, so it was not exactly a diverse background. From there, I went to Rutgers University in New Brunswick where I graduated with a bachelor’s in English.

What was your experience with Americorps Blue Engine?

Right after college, I was pretty lost with what I wanted to do. Originally, I planned to go to law school and then I decided that it wasn’t for me. I was fairly close to my journalism professor, and he advised me to go into Americorps because he was friends with the program director. I became an Americorps Blue Engine member as a teaching apprentice. The point of the program was to take service-oriented individuals and place them in economically deprived neighborhoods throughout the Bronx, Harlem, and Brooklyn. I learned the hard way that, to build my behavior management, I had to get to know the kids. It was really good for me, and I feel like I learned a lot about lesson planning and teaching in general.

Why did you choose PPCS?

I was commuting every day to the Bronx from New Jersey for a year, and I wanted to stay in New Jersey. So when I completed the program, I decided to search for schools that did similar work: schools that were data-driven. People’s Prep hit a number of those boxes. They have a mission to serve their kids and get them in college. It’s very similar to Blue Engine, so I felt an affinity for that.

What challenges are you facing in your first year?

Behavior management has definitely been a really big challenge even though I have experience in behavior management with Blue Engine. Every class is different. What works in one classroom doesn’t work in another classroom, and that’s a lesson I’m learning and struggling with. I will say that it’s improving slowly.

What makes you want to come to work every day despite those challenges?

Simple answer: the people. I get a lot of support from admin, from fellow teachers, support staff… from everyone really. It’s just a really good community and culture of support. Everyone props each other and helps each other out, and I like that. It’s difficult, sure, but no one is afraid to ask for help. And even when my students give me a challenge, they also make me want to come back because, when you do reach them, it makes it all worth it.