MPS teacher spotlight: Emmanuel Godoy

Welcome to the latest installment of a new series highlighting talented public school teachers. Emmanuel Godoy teaches second grade at La Escuela Fratney, 3255 N. Fratney St.

Fratney is a two-way bilingual program with a multicultural, anti-racist focus that’s located in Riverwest. recently caught up with Godoy — who goes by “Mr. Manny” in the classroom — and asked him a few questions about his teaching career and public school in general. How long have you taught at Fratney? Did you teach anywhere else prior?

Emmanuel Godoy: Fratney is my first teaching position and I have currently worked there for one year.

OMC: Where did you go to college and why did you major in education?

EG: Originally, I went to DePaul University in Chicago to major in film. Upon completing my degree in June 2009, I decided to join the Teach For America program, which placed me in Milwaukee. I joined TFA because this was the program that would allow me to explore my teaching passion. With much appreciation to the program and my experience at Fratney, I am happy to say that teaching is truly my career passion. As a way to combine my knowledge and skills of film with teaching, I hope to create a film project with the students at Fratney in the near future.

OMC: What is your favorite aspect of your job?

EG: I love coming to school every day with a smile because I get to work with amazing students. I really can’t say that I have one favorite aspect of my job, rather I enjoy all the dimensions of teaching equally.

OMC: What do you do in the summer time?

EG: This past summer I was completing my graduate courses, but next summer I really want to immerse myself in the Milwaukee summer culture. I am very fortunate to live in a city where there are constant activities, such as Summerfest, the State Fair and the milieu of concerts. Overall during the summer, I like to explore either through visiting local areas or traveling abroad.

OMC: What is your response to some people thinking teachers have insurance that is “too good” or they “only work nine months out of the year?”

EG: It just may be that it’s my first year in teaching, but I honestly have not heard those statements before. Regardless, I would tell those people that the life of a teacher is not a 9-5 job. From my constant interactions with teachers in public and private schools, I always hear them saying that they work extra hours before and after school in order to prepare the next day’s lessons, help a struggling student, manage after school programs, and / or take time to reflect on their teaching practice.

There are so many dedicated teachers who know that in order to help our students effectively we need to evaluate and reflect on our teaching strategies and execution. With this evaluation and reflection, it takes time and focus, which extend past our contract time. Therefore, with all the time we put into our teaching practice, I truly believe that deserve the great benefits we receive, either being health insurance or our school year breaks.

OMC: Do you have a touching story about how you impacted a student’s life?

EG: Last year, I remember working with a difficult student. By difficult I mean that this student was lacking motivation for learning. If a student lacks motivation, then directing them academically is difficult. I remember during the beginning months he was resistant to participating in class, finishing in class and out of class assignments and did not care about his overall academic progress. As most teachers do, I took time to reflect on this student to see what are the factors that are contributing to this resistant behavior. Once I made a possible list of factors, I narrowed down those aspects that I knew I could impact.

The next day I went to school and told this student that I would like him to stay in for recess to talk. As usual he was resistant, but in the end settled down and stayed in. During our recess talk, I got to know my “defiant” student and learn more about how he was just not into school because he was tired. He said, “Mr. Manny it’s just hard to focus because I’m tired and (pause) well many kids don’t like me.” This was the moment where a teacher goes “a-ha!”

I continued the conversation with my student and discussed the reasons how he could get more sleep and why he thought other students didn’t like him. We came up with some strategies to help him with forming new friendships. Every week I would check on him to see how he was doing. It was still a rough year for him, but fortunately his lack of motivation for learning changed towards a positive direction.

Whenever he had a problem he would feel comfortable enough to write me a letter explaining the problem and if I could help him resolve it. I would like to thank this student for teaching me something important: teachers need to take time to build relationship with their students. Being my second year, this has been my new focus in my classroom.

OMC: How is teaching different now from when you were a kid?

EG: I feel that teaching is really different. My students are constantly asked to use an assortment of graphic organizers in reading and math. Along visual guidance, students are asked to think more critically about their learning. I remember when I was in elementary school I would copy many things and repeat the same process day after day.

In my classroom, we are learning not only a math concept, but explaining it in words on what our math thinking was as well as what evidence supports our answer. Math is just one area where students are asked to critically think, so one could only imagine the constant mental focus the students are asked to give. I am very content with this critical thinking aspect of teaching because we live in a world of complexities, especially within this technological era. As teachers we need to prepare our students, even at a young age to critically analyze their world in order to make sense of it and to challenge existing paradigms.

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