The Middle School program at The New Century School got a whole new look for the 2019–2020 school year. Daphnée Hope not only took over as the 7th- and 8th-grade homeroom teacher, but she also transformed the classroom into a place of beauty, inspiration, and motivation. You can’t walk into her class without feeling uplifted! Even her name sparks positivity!
With Hope for the Future . . .
Ms. Hope came to TNCS from San Antonio, Texas, and she and her husband moved to Baltimore almost 2 years ago for his work as a fighter pilot with the U.S. military. They now live in the Hampden neighborhood. She taught for a year and a half at other schools in the city before joining TNCS and is in her fifth year of teaching overall. We’ll delve into how her first year at TNCS is going, but first let’s backtrack to how she found teaching—or maybe it’s more accurate to say that it found her!
Ms. Hope earned a bachelor’s degree in English with a concentration in Creative Writing from Texas A&M University. Her teaching degree came later and not in a completely conventional manner. Having so many creative writing credits meant that she could take additional related classes and then be “adopted” by a school that would mentor her as a teacher. “During my first year of teaching I wasn’t technically a teacher,” she explained. “I walked in on the first day of school and thought, ‘the students and I are going to learn together!’ It was really scary but it was the most rewarding growing experience.”
This last insight came from a bit of reflection—she wasn’t immediately aware that deciding to teach was the right thing to have done: “I didn’t actually set out to be a teacher. I became a teacher. I’ve always loved kids, but I had never thought about teaching.” She recalls her father telling her and her sister that they could choose whatever degree they wanted to pursue, so long as they could find employment in their chosen fields. Ms. Hope had a job set up in France after college, but, much to her dismay, that fell through.
So, upon graduating, she started sending out résumés, thinking that she would teach for a year while figuring out what career she really wanted. She went for an interview for a teaching position in west Texas that somehow did not feel right to her. On the drive home, she confided her feelings to her mother who had accompanied her. “I really don’t want to teach there,” she told her mother, who responded that it was sort of the only available option. Then, in a stroke of maternal genius, she suggested stopping in a cute little town for lunch to cheer her daughter up. What happened next can only be described as “destined.”
We stopped in, and this feeling came over both of us. My mom said, ‘You can work here for a year.’ So, we go to the middle school, and I basically knock on the door and introduce myself to the principal. I said something like, ‘I know this might seem random, but I was wondering if you had any English positions open.’ She actually replied, ‘We have been praying for a teacher to walk through our doors for almost 4 years now!’ They hadn’t had a teacher, and there I was, just like they had wished for. Also, like me, she was a graduate of Texas A&M and an English major. Just like that, they hired me! I couldn’t believe it—it was so unexpected, but it was the best 2 years of teaching I had ever had. It was a godsend. The only reason I left is that my husband and I got engaged and had to move.
That was Ozona Middle School, and Ms. Hope clearly benefited from that near-miraculous experience. Her career path was set—she was a teacher through and through, after all!
. . . And Hope for the Present!
Mere weeks into her first year at TNCS, Ms. Hope seems to embrace everything about the school, and her positivity is infectious. Upper elementary and middle school students are working hard in her ELA and Global Studies classes and loving every minute of it.
She came to TNCS because she was actively seeking an independent school, her experiences in city public schools having been somewhat discouraging. When she met with Head of School Señora Duncan, she felt excited about the school and the prospect of teaching here. “I could see myself fitting in well here. I remember going home and telling my husband that the kids are just so happy, and they want to learn.”
Ms. Hope’s ELA class initially comprised a Daily 4 Rotation of independent reading with daily reading log, mini writing lesson with her, word work station (5th grade) or ISEE test prep (6th through 8th grades), and iReady (see TNCS BTS Night for more information). However, as time has gone on, she has adapted the Daily 4 to better fit the needs of her students and to incorporate real-world learning. Depending on the day of the week, the Daily 4+ might consist of novel study through a literature circle station, a TED talk station, iReady reading comprehension lessons, a vocabulary/word work station, a social-emotional journaling station, and a news article analysis and conversation station.
Teaching writing is one of her passions, and she especially loves teaching writing to middle schoolers. Their first writing assignment for the year was a personal narrative, and quarter 2 started off with creative writing—a Halloween-inspired short story. “I really enjoy building relationships through writing. I use writing and journaling to help my students make sense of their feelings and have an outlet—a creative space to call their own,” she said. Middle schoolers, after all, are going through profound physical and emotional changes, so having tools like creative expression to forge them into something manageable is highly important for this age group. Her classroom is a space where they can be themselves, maybe even their best selves.
“My favorite thing about working here is that the kids are so happy to learn. You just don’t find that everywhere,” said Ms. Hope. It’s also true that not every school is fortunate enough to have such enthusiastic educators. Ms. Hope infuses her classes with rigor and fun. Her standards are high, and TNCS students are thoroughly enjoying rising to the challenge! Welcome to TNCS, Ms. Hope, and here’s hoping the rest of your school year gets even better!