Lessons from Teacher of the Year Narciso Moquete

Lessons from Teacher of the Year Narciso Moquete

Last year, SAND School fourth grade teacher, Narciso Moquete was named Teacher of the Year.  Well into this new academic year, Moquete continues to exemplify the qualities that made him a standout, emphasizing the home-school connection with every single student and family. Hartford Public Schools talked to him about how the year is shaping up; the conversation has been edited.

Q. How is your year as Teacher of the Year going?

It’s been going well. It’s still the beginning of the year. My students are in fourth grade but I have to remember that they are still really third graders. Getting them used to my routines, my expectations in the classroom, takes some time. But we’re making progress.

I have 21 students this year; I just got a new student in yesterday. Right away, I sent the mom the class DOJO invitation and she responded and signed in. It’s a classroom management tool; it’s online. I have 100 percent participation in class DOJO from parents. I track what my students are doing and I’m really specific with behavior. A question I am asked often when I talk to parents is, “Well, what is my child doing?” With the tool, I can pull up the report so we get to talk about that. Whatever their child is doing, they really know.

Q. Has being named TOY affected how you approach your work with students? How so?

It was humbling for me to become Teacher of the Year. And I’m still doing what I’m used to doing. I’m still going on home visits; I’ve gone on eight so far. I’ve got some more to go. I’m still keeping my door unlocked. I’m still bringing in experiences from my upbringing into the classroom. I’m still talking to students like I normally do. It’s business as usual.

Q. You have used Rap and Hip Hop in teaching in the past.  How do you incorporate it now?  

We’re starting a new ELA (English Language Arts) program and one of the learning targets or themes for the week was poetry. So I created a song, a rap song with my students. This was years ago. But I still have the song and I played it for my current students and gave them the back story. These students really weren’t turned on to poetry. They said, “This is boring, I really don’t want to learn this Mr. Moquete.”

To help address this I said, “You like hip hop, you like rap.”

And of course, overwhelmingly they did. Well, I said, “that’s poetry. Those artists are poets; they wrote a poem. They put their words to a beat.”

“What Mr. Moquete?”

Yeah. I wrote lyrics. Kids actually wrote their own lyrics. I brought them over to a recording studio; we created a beat. We laid the chorus, I laid a verse. I mentioned that because I played that song for my current students. They wanted to hear it multiple times. Once in a while they’ll ask me to play it toward dismissal. I’m still bringing in my own flavor, my experiences into the classroom because I think it enriches their learning. They can connect to that.

Q. You like to promote the home-school connection. Why do you think that’s important and how do you do that now?

This is a question that parents ask. I’m new to this school. A lot of parents weren’t used to the [idea of] teacher coming over. So I try to make them feel at ease. I set up the appointment. I talk to them on the phone. I say, “We’re going to have a very informal conversation. I want to be in your comfort zone, your turf. I just want to connect with you, let your child know that I am there for you, and I want you to understand that as the parent we are a team.”

What I keep going back to is, a lot of the parents, and even my friends growing up, they didn’t have a positive experience with school. I have to counteract that, do my part to change their view of what school should have been like. I make them feel at ease. They like that I’m asking permission. They like that I use a tone that is very informal. I sit on the couch, I don’t go anywhere else. We have this conversation, I’m taking notes, I’m taking pictures. We’re having a good time. I do that just to let them understand that I am on their side. Whatever I can glean from them to help me in my lessons here, such as things that their child likes.

I just went on a home visits last Friday and learned that the student likes LOL dolls. I didn’t know what they were but they are a very popular toy. It comes in a little ball. You open the ball and there’s a doll in there. There are different outfits and you snap them on. Of course, when I’m planning my lessons to engage my students and to engage this one student, I’m talking about LOL dolls and the fact that I learned about them. I used Google images to put the doll up in the classroom and used that to get my students hooked to what I’m teaching.

Q. One of the district priorities is Teaching and Learning. Are you trying anything new this year on that front?

This year as a school we’re really focused on Guided Reading. Something new that we’re doing this year is getting coaching from the district. We’re really focusing on lesson plans. Making sure that the coach is giving us feedback on our lesson plans. We can make that experience the best it can be for our students.

Q. Another priority is School Culture and Climate. How do you foster that with your students?

We’ve got the home visits. We’ve got 100 percent participation on class DOJO.  I try to post at least one picture a day. As a parent, with my own children, their teachers use class DOJO and I can’t explain how good it makes me feel to be able to see my son and my daughter when they’re in class. I can post a video. Parents who can’t attend the assembly because they’re working can click on the video and it’s like they were there.

I think working on that culture, that sense of community, is important. I’m speaking with one parent, she wants to put together a parent-teacher volleyball game, kind of competitive event, and have the students watch. That’s part of that culture, community building item that I’m trying to do as well.


Read about Teacher of the Year 2019 and watch a video of winner Narciso Moquete: https://www.hartfordschools.org/hartford-public-schools-announces-2019-teacher-of-the-year/


More information about Moquete’s background: https://www.hartfordschools.org/teacher-of-the-year-finalist-2019-narcisomoquete/