For the last 15 years, Romel Nusdorfer has taught English at Ánimo Inglewood Charter High School. It’s just not her love for English and writing that has kept Nusdorfer in the classroom for over a decade, but a desire to help students find their purpose. “My job goes beyond teaching English. I teach because I want to make a difference in young people’s lives at a point in time that is so important for them,” said Nusdorfer. Her early years at Animo Inglewood confirmed her calling to serve. “I found that I loved teaching, I love interacting with these people who have a lot of big ideas. I love that I get to be a part of helping them actualize their dreams.”
To begin the school year, Nusdorfer explored the theme of change, specifically the many ways people are motivated to fight for change. Nusdorfer achieved this using several media including news broadcasts from recent protests, contemporary text, social media, and ending with the book Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass by Frederick Douglass. The autobiography provided students with a stirring picture of slavery and the abolitionist movement. “It’s really just trying to draw a connection through all the time periods. I wanted to start off with things that are relevant to them. I didn’t want to just jump into past text,” said Nusdorfer.
In Nusdorfer’s classes, she leverages both “mirror” and “window” texts to help students strengthen their literature and composition skills. “Mirror texts” allow students to see their identities in the curriculum, while “window texts” provide a view into the lived experiences of others. “I grab the texts that are by black and brown authors and then of course I try to use video and supplemental text as well.” At Green Dot, we’ve refined our English curriculum to be culturally responsive, inquiry-driven, technologically integrated, and grounded in facilitating learning experiences that are responsive to students’ culture.
Nursdefer secret to effective teaching and learning is fun. She makes learning accessible and engaging for students and for herself. “I'm really good at making difficult things simple, like rhetorical analysis. I like to analyze text that's fun to me, I like doing that with my students," said Nursdorfer. She creates formulae that help students view abstract concepts in a concrete manner.
When she was first learning how to teach writing she recalls thinking back to her own experiences as a student. In college, one of her professors began class by writing a two-line poem on the board and instructing the class to craft a full-page response. “I was like, what are you talking about, that’s impossible,” laughed Nursdorfer. She then took a moment and began to break the material down. “I took it piece by piece, one word, one phrase, the understanding of that word in terms of denotation and connotation and how it applies to the entire text.” She leverages these personal experiences to enhance the learning of her students. “I actually have them do those things, I give them those steps. Like do this and let's write about it and talk about it as much as you can, and it pushes their writing.” In class her energy is infectious, and students can’t help but feel inspired by her excitement and genuine love for literature and writing.
A Love for Learning
Even as a veteran teacher with 15 years of experience, Nursdorfer continues to develop and evolve her craft. In 2020 during the transition to distance learning, Nursdorfer had to reimagine the look and feel of her English classes for this new online learning environment-- fortunately, she wasn’t alone. She was paired with another teacher and together they navigated this new landscape. Nursdorfer believes that Green Dot’s investment in collaboration has played an important role in her growth over the years.
“Being able to collaborate with other teachers and being given the space and time to do so is really helpful,” said Nursdorfer. At Green Dot, we’ve fostered a culture of collaborative professional development that breaks down the silos in teaching and meets the needs of teachers. We are thankful for passionate teachers like Nursdorfer, their joy for teaching and commitment to student success are crucial in our mission to prepare students for college, leadership, and life.