Innovator Aba Ngissah: Making Dreams Possible

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“I’ve seen students thrive and say they want to go to college and be excited about the opportunities in the real world.”

“I believe my job as a teacher is to find out what every child needs – what their goals and dreams are – and find people and programs to connect them with, to make their dreams possible,” explains Aba Ngissah, who teaches a combined fifth and sixth grade class at Hudnall Elementary School in Inglewood.

She encourages her students to dream big, although many face challenges and low income. During the pandemic, she and other teachers used their own money to buy food, cleaning and hygiene supplies for families.

There are a few things that students in Inglewood can do without, but Ngissah didn’t want them to miss out on the enrichment opportunities offered to students from the wealthier communities. Because she dreams big too, last summer she gathered a team of educators, administrators, district leaders, technology leaders, artists and musicians for a summer enrichment camp. where approximately 200 students were encouraged to discover their creative side and explore career paths.

Professionals volunteered their time or were paid to teach professional skills, serve as role models, and work with members of the Inglewood Teachers Association (ITA). STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) has been integrated everywhere.

Surprisingly, Ngissah (who is president of ITA) convinced the school district, foundations, nonprofits, private businesses and community organizations to provide resources and funding. The summer camp was so successful that new course offerings based on the program are becoming available in the district. This collaboration between ITA and the district honors the goal both parties have set themselves to work cooperatively to help students succeed.

The camp was a big step towards fairness for Inglewood Unified, which was taken over by the state in 2012 and remains in receivership, with severe budget cuts imposed to keep the district afloat. The arts have for the most part been phased out, Ngissah says.

The eight-week summer camp, held at Woodworth-Monroe, a TK-8 school, offered students the opportunity to choose from “academies”.

Students of the Academy of Music.

For the music academy, Ngissah and her team have partnered with Musicians at Play (MAP), a Los Angeles-based foundation that provides students and teachers with access to music education through live performances and music. mentoring. They also partnered with the Musicians’ Guild union, whose members worked with the students. The Bertrand music store donated instruments. The district funded the program, which served some 50 students from grades 2 to 10.

The program continues, says Ngissah, “with four interested school sites and after school. MAP also works with us to secure accredited music teachers or CTEs [career technical education] graduate music teachers.

Ngissah played a key role in establishing the district-funded summer animation academy for high school students by partnering with BRIC (Break, Reinvent, Impact and Change), a foundation that aims to increase representation in entertainment, games, media and technology for women and the under-represented, as well as Sony and Nickelodeon, which provided resources for teachers and students. Students were encouraged to come up with ideas for their own animated series.

The partnerships continue, says Ngissah. “Students will work with industry experts on animation and game design. We are working to make it an “ag” class [meeting UC and CSU admission requirements]. “

Student Tariq Stone with computer and film equipment

Student Tariq Stone had a broad view of the art and the entertainment industry, thanks to the Summer Animation Academy.

“My experience with the BRIC animation class has been very positive,” says Tariq Stone, a student who now attends California College of the Arts. “It gave me a ton of new opportunities and taught me things that were so useful to me during my art studies. I feel like I have a broader view of the art and the entertainment industry through these courses.

At the Girls Make Beats Academy, GMB professionals taught girls about sound engineering, podcasting, and careers as music producers.

With the Smartphone Directors Project, created by Ngissah and funded by the district, students learned writing and filming skills, while also collaborating with industry experts from We Make Movies, a collective that offers tutorials. online, and the We Uplift the World Foundation, whose mission is to create positive change through art, entertainment and education.

“Students learn to read and write through film making and hopefully will get internships and paid jobs through this program,” says Ngissah; it will use a recently awarded innovation grant from the CTA Institute for Teaching to support the project this year.

These enrichment programs turned struggling or disliking students into school, Ngissah says.

“I’ve seen students thrive and say they want to go to college and be excited about the opportunities in the real world. They are happier and do better in their regular classes. I believe that through art and STEAM we approach socio-emotional learning.

Ngissah, a teacher for over two decades, is also the President of Professional Development at ITA and is a member of the Instructional Leadership Corps, a partnership of CTA, the Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education, and the Stanford National Board Resource Center. . University to promote excellence in teaching.

“I’m a person who can’t do one thing at a time,” she admits. “It’s just the way my brain works.”

She moved to America from Ghana as a child. “My education in Ghana was excellent, but not all children get an education there. “

What motivates her is the belief that all students deserve a great education.

“In the United States of America – where people from other countries are dying to come so their children can have better lives – we should have great schools for everyone. Instead, we have schools that struggle. Teachers shouldn’t have to fight for programs in this country. But I am ready to fight so that the students can make their dreams come true.


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