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The Rest is History: Kanku Kabongo, TEP'16

The Rest is History: Kanku Kabongo, TEP'16
History and social studies can be the tools with which young people can change the world, says Kanku Kabongo. In fact, she came to the Ed School hoping to learn the necessary strategies to teach her students to accomplish that very thing. What she didn’t anticipate, however, was how that goal would evolve over the course of the year.

“I have added the goal of learning how to teach my students that they are part of a community that they can change if they so wish,” says Kabongo, who is completing her practicum for the Teacher Education Program (TEP) at Chelsea High School where she teaches a mixed-level history class. Being in the classroom every day, her main source of inspiration was never far.

“I am lucky enough to work with students daily. My students are a constant source of inspiration,” she says, noting that her friends and family provided great support this year in “navigating that inspiration.”

Kabongo plans on continuing teaching next year. Her goal as a teacher? Not only to teach her students, but to learn from them as well.

“One of the most distinguished characteristics of Kanku Kabongo is her eagerness to learn and to improve. She frequently seeks feedback and uses such feedback to be the best teacher she can possibly be,” says Senior Lecturer Katherine Merseth, faculty director of TEP. “She also is forever cheerful and has a wonderful warm smile that brightens all those around her.”   

Upon learning that she had been honored with the Intellectual Contribution/Faculty Tribute Award for TEP, Kabongo answered some questions about her time at the Ed School and beyond.

Is there any professor or class that significantly shaped your experience at the Ed School? [Adjunct Lecturer] Christina “V” Villarreal has been my intellectual and emotional rock. I can’t summarize her immense impact in such a short space, but I can say that her class content [in Ethnic Studies and Education] was inspiring and thought-provoking, and she epitomizes an educator who loves, cares for, and helps heal her students.

What advice do you have for next year’s students going through your program?  Learning about yourself is an important part of learning to teach and improving as a teacher. The more open you are to learning about yourself and contextualizing your experiences, the more you will get out of this program and the more you will be able to teach everyone around you.

What will you change in education and why?  As a history teacher, in my own classroom I want to make a change so that there are no invisible people in that space.  People across the lines of difference are often rendered invisible in history books, and their descendants are thus rendered invisible or marginalized in the modern day. When my students recognize their visibility in history, they will more deeply understand their present-day communities and begin to realize their power in those communities. 

If you could transport one person/place/thing to your next destination, what would it be? My thought partner or my nephew because both always remind me that I don’t know everything and that is okay.

The number one, biggest surprise of the last year was … the way my family grew.  In addition to my blood relatives and my like-blood relatives, I now have my TEP cohort and my Ethnic Studies extended family.  

Read about the other recipients of this year's Intellectual Contribution/Faculty Tribute Award.



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