Sitting Down with Joe

Sitting Down with Joe

Interviewer: Why did you choose to become an educator and work in schools?


Joe: I’m a first-generation American. My parents were immigrants. They grew up poor in the Dominican Republic, so I saw through their eyes how a proper education can affect people’s lives. I feel like it is the great equalizer in pulling people out of poverty or lower social classes.


Interviewer: Where did you work before coming to WESS?


Joe: Before coming to WESS, I worked at a central office. I used to be an academic policy officer. That basically means I helped schools align to the policy. WESS was one of the schools I helped. Before this, I worked at an expeditionary learning school teaching social studies.


Interviewer: Why did you choose to work at WESS?


Joe: One attraction was going back to that this was an expeditionary learning school. I certainly agreed with the policy. I love the concept of students at the center of their learning. The other reason was my connection with Jessica and Lynne. I have known them for over 10 years. Seeing their success made me want to help at WESS.


Interviewer: How is WESS different from other schools you have worked at?


Joe: This school, which makes it really different right off the bat, is the number of students that are all on track for graduation. We have students entering high school with 4-6 credits which is incredible.


Interviewer: Which of our core values do you think is most important?


Joe: I feel like our country right now is lacking compassion. I feel like there is a great need for compassion right now. Compassion would start with a community and then it would help the country. Certain communities are really treated in a way that is not right. At the moment for sure compassion is a really important value. It should start in the crews and then move throughout the school. Also just taking responsibility for ourselves. As simple as saying good morning. Sitting in the cafeteria with someone you don’t know or who is alone is a way of showing compassion. There is a lot of friction between certain communities in our country right now.


Interviewer: What is one of the things you most value about expeditionary learning?


Joe: What I most value would be how students are, we offer rigorous instruction that supports the idea or concept that students rise to their own conclusion. I’m teaching an elective course and we are studying the constitution principles of our country and the students have to see which principles are working and which is not and forcing them to think deeply about whether our nation is flawless or flawed.


Interviewer: Do you have any pets/kids?


Joe: I have 2 kids. I have a 12-year-old and an 11-year-old. They both attended middle school in Brooklyn. No pets. I used to have a dog. Passed away about 10 years ago. I loved that guy. A mixed breed. A german shepherd and a rottweiler.


Interviewer: What burrow do you live in?


Joe: I live in Brooklyn in Sunset Park. It is a very diverse community. Mostly Latino. Very dense. I am surrounded by the landmark green wood cemetery and also I’m close proximity to Prospect Park.


Interviewer: Where did you grow up?


Joe: Originally I’m from Washington Heights. I moved to Staten Island in middle school. And then I went off to college out in Stony Brook. I’m a New York City guy. Grew up here, still, live here.


Interviewer: Where did you attend college?


Joe: I attended my undergrad at Stony Brook.


Interviewer: What do you like to do in your free time?


Joe: “I’m an avid cyclist, I like to do long-distance cycling. You might find me on the West Side bike path. I like to ride anywhere from 20-80 miles. [It] Just depends on the day. I also play softball on a team during the summer months. In the summer I love to read on the beach. Go to the beach and spend hours reading.”