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Praise for one of our Urban Ed Grads

News from The College of New Jersey

For more information contact: Emily Dodd, 609-771-3066,

Brigantine Resident to be Published in a Journal of the National Council of Teachers of English

TCNJ, Atlantic City H.S. Alumna Jessica (Kerley) Gaeckle

EWING, NJ (01/26/2012)(readMedia)– How do you kill a chicken?

Jessica (Kerley) Gaeckle ’10, of Brigantine, learned how one day while taking notes during a student teaching experience, when a special education student in the inclusive classroom raised his hand to talk about watching his grandfather in Puerto Rico prepare a chicken for his Abuela to cook. The anecdote related to a story being read aloud.

“That started a domino effect of all the kids raising their hands and knowing something similar. Myself, my co-teacher and (my supervisor) Dr. Sarah Kern were in awe,” recalled Gaeckle.

Gaeckle may not find knowledge about chicken-killing useful in her personal life, but after her student teaching experience, she now says she believes that knowledge like this is important in the classroom – if her students care, so does she. This experience spurred her to write an essay that is now set to be published in a national education journal.

The recent alum’s essay, titled “How to kill a chicken: Valuing local knowledge in a second grade ESL/sheltered classroom,” will be published in the May 2012 issue of Talking Points, a journal for researchers, teachers, and parents.

“Her paper highlights the importance of honoring and using the lived experiences of your students as a way to engage them in academics and support their success,” said Assistant Professor of Elementary and Early Childhood Education and Coordinator of the Urban Education Master’s program Tabitha Dell’Angelo.

Gaeckle’s essay was based on an independent study in a second grade classroom in Atlantic City that she took on as graduate-level student during spring 2010. According to Dell’Angelo, Gaeckle’s former advisor and professor, Gaeckle kept a journal of her experiences while she was teaching in an attempt to learn the “needs, strengths, and challenges” of the second-graders.

The first graduate in the urban option of the College’s elementary and early childhood education program, Gaeckle completed the 5-year master’s program headed by Dell’Angelo in December 2010. She said she chose the Atlantic City school, Sovereign Avenue School, because she went to high school in the same district.

“My experiences at Atlantic City High School attracted me to the urban option. … I wanted to inspire the kids of an inner city district to have the same drive and love of learning that I had and still have,” she said.

Gaeckle, who now teaches English as a Second Language in kindergarten through second grade in Pleasantville, NJ, hopes that educators will take the lessons in her essay to heart.

“I hope the essay helps teachers, new and novice, to slow down and get to know their students, more than they already do,” she said. “Knowing about students on the surface does not even begin to say you know them deep down…When a student can write an essay or story based on personal experience or something they are knowledgeable and excited about, they put their heart and soul into it!”

Talking Points is a journal published by the Whole Language Umbrella (WLU), a conference of the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE). The journal helps promote literacy research and the use of “whole language instruction” – a method of teaching children to read by emphasizing the meanings of words in context – in classrooms.

It also provides a forum for parents, classroom teachers, and researchers to reflect on literacy and learning.

The NCTE is dedicated to improving the teaching and learning of English and the language arts. The WLU specifically serves whole language support groups and individual professionals interested in developing and implementing whole language instruction in educational institutions.

According to Dell’Angelo, the publication of Gaeckle’s teaching philosophy will help her make an even bigger difference as a teacher.

“It enables her to contribute to the larger conversation about schooling and education,” she said. “We know that teachers impact the students in their classrooms. However, by publishing (her) work, she is able to make a broader impact.”