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Listen: New York City teachers and students share their stories

In a school system of 1.1 million students and 75,000 educators, there are an endless number of riveting stories just waiting to be heard.

Over the last few weeks, Chalkbeat has partnered with StoryCorps to try to collect some of them. We asked New York City teachers and students to tell us about the greatest challenge they’ve faced this school year or a moment that surprised them.

Listen to a selection of those responses below, and continue sending in your stories by using the StoryCorps app and tagging “Chalkbeat” in your recorded interview.


Surprised by support

Hilary Galland, an English teacher at the Bronx Design and Construction Academy in the South Bronx, interviews one of her 10th-grade students, Manuel Herra.

“A big challenge I’ve faced this year is coming on time, getting my work done, and not getting distracted by others.”

‘We failed you’


Talking with fellow teacher Mario Benabe, Megan Blanton shares her experiences as a special education teacher at Restart Academy Cares at Mt. Sinai, one of the city’s alternative schools for students who are older than their peers and behind in credits.

“Everything about their past education has told them that they are a failure and that they’ve failed because, inherently, they are not good enough or they are not intelligent enough.”


Highs and lows

Rachel Epley, a first-year teacher at South Bronx Classical, talks about her first months as a third-grade teacher.

“You think you teach someone well enough, but then it doesn’t show up in your data.”


Understanding students’ realities


Bronx-native Mario Benabe, a special education math teacher at Bronx River High School, talks about trying to empower his students to make a difference in their community. 

“My vision is that students do not fear that the higher up they go in education, that they have to lose pieces of who they are or where they come from.”


Seeing progress


Noah Mackert, an English teacher at Democracy Prep Charter Middle School in Harlem, spoke with one of his former students, eighth-grader Kristophe Yen, at a Chalkbeat event in October.

“You were like two different people from the beginning of the year to the end of the year.”


Student growth


Harvest Collegiate High School teacher Stephen Lazar opened up about a time when one of his students surprised him.

“This is a student who could’ve given up on herself time after time again.”



About our First Person series:

First Person is where Chalkbeat features personal essays by educators, students, parents, and others trying to improve public education. Read our submission guidelines here.