Harlem social studies teacher wants students to impact the community

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MACHESNEY PARK (WREX) – Kyra Newnam’s classroom at Harlem High School seems more like a college course, or a newsroom, than a high school class.

Newnam teaches AP U.S. History, African American History, Media Studies and Veteran Project class.

In her Media Studies class, students create a newscast for the school that’s posted on YouTube completely from scratch. It gives students hands-on experience.

“Learn how to edit videos, learn how make videos, learn how to inform people basically on news,” student Trinity Almond said.

Students said Newnam gives them independence to work on their own projects and the freedom to do them how they want. Almond said Newnam makes projects more fun than they really are.

“She’s such a fun outgoing person, she makes this class so fun,” Almond said.

Newnam also teaches the Veteran Project class at Harlem High School, which is a very hand-on class that gives students a reach far beyond the classroom.

“So we interview local veterans, so World War II, Vietnam, Korea, current day, and then each individual student gets one of the interviews and then has to make a documentary over the course of the year,” Newnam said.

She said she and the students work hard all year long on the documentary, after school, before school, and even on the weekends. She said she really wants students to learn good work ethic and to really love learning in whatever capacity learning interests them. In order to do that, she said she wants students to see how their work could impact the community.

“Being able to give them really meaningful, powerful experiences. So it’s not just like read this chapter, turn in this worksheet, but like here’s the impact you can have on other people,” Newnam said.

She ultimately wants to give her students the opportunity to see how their work does impact other people, which often happens with the veterans project.

Newnam said the best part about her job is watching students realize that what they are doing impacts other people.

“Give them a voice, to feel like they have a voice, to give them avenues to have that voice and the different avenues to share that voice.”

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Lindsey Fafoglia

Lindsey Fafoglia

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