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TNTP Re-imagine Teaching

Evelyn Rebollar

High School English, Bronx Arena High School Bronx, NY

Evelyn grew up in New York City, just like her students. She understands the obstacles they face. After bouncing from home to home as a young person, Evelyn had an eleventh-grade English teacher who challenged her to excel in school. When she received her bachelor’s degree from CUNY City College, she knew she wanted to pay it forward. She recalls: “I said to myself, ‘I want to do for other students what my teacher did for me. If I didn't have her, I wouldn't be where I am now."

After spending four years as a teaching assistant, Evelyn saw various teaching styles firsthand that helped her craft her own successful teaching approach. In her classroom, she excels at allowing students to self-direct. Her high schoolers are comfortable making mistakes in front of each other and understand errors lead to learning. They are also vocal about what books they want to read and what kind of writing forms they want to study.

This year, she worked on crafting a new poetry unit with one classroom. Together, she and her students identified the commonalities in poems they enjoyed and pulled out techniques and literary elements to emulate in their own writing. “My students are a lot smarter than I am,” she says. “They just haven't always had that intelligence cultivated.”

Evelyn’s principal says being able to cultivate that intelligence is precisely what makes her so effective. “Her students are willing to struggle longer through difficult work and hold their drafts to higher and higher standards than they are in other classes,” her principal says.

If you talk to Evelyn’s students, many will tell you how they struggled academically before entering her classroom: On average, they enter below grade level, with a grade point average of 53 out of 100 in English Language Arts. They graduate with an average of 85. In the last three years out of Evelyn’s four-year career, 100 percent of her students have passed the New York State English Regents exam. In 2015, she was featured on PBS News Hour in a report highlighting her classroom success. 

Spread the Word