Social Studies Department Welcomes New Teachers
By SHYANNE HINDS
Two new teachers have joined the social studies staff: Mr. Matthew Livreri and Ms. Naphisa Jenkins.
Mr. Livreri, who teaches U.S. history, is a born-and-raised Long Islander whose outside interests include surfing, hunting, fishing, doing some “mechanic” work, playing video games, and hanging with his daughter. Throughout high school and college, he was a waiter at Friendlier, an Italian restaurant. He has also been a truck driver for a wine company, a worker in a car auto shop, and a plumber’s assistant.
Mr. Livreri went to Nassau Community College and Long Island University Post, and majored in social studies at both colleges.
“My professor would always debate with me about anything,” Mr. Livreri said. “It made me like history and look at it through different viewpoints, which is why I became a teacher.”
His first teaching job was at Uniondale High School in Long Island, where he worked as a fill-in teacher for four months until the original teacher returned.
He then began work at Clark High School in Long Island, a very small school that is ranked as one of the top 50 schools in the nation.
“It was very close-knit, everyone knew each other,” Mr. Livreri said. He was a teacher’s aid there for a year.
“I left because I finally got a real teaching job at Erasmus Hall,” he said. “It was a rough school, but I’m grateful for the opportunity.” He taught at Erasmus for three years before moving to Midwood in September 2018.
At Midwood, his teaching style has changed.
“Midwood students are more independent, and because of that, I can do much more,” he said. “I like teaching high schoolers because the kids are more mature. You’re able to discuss real world problems and treat them like adults.”
His biggest obstacle when becoming a teacher was “connecting to students no matter what their skill level or language barrier may be,” he said. His favorite part is “when a student finally has their lightbulb moment. It means they finally got it!”
Being a teacher requires “having patience, not giving up, having more patience, and being creative,” he said.
One goal Mr. Livreri has for his students is that they “listen to all opinions and all people.”
“Students have a lot on their plate,” he said, “and as teachers we forget that since we grew up in different times.”
Mr. Livreri currently still lives in Long Island and commutes approximately 1 hour and 25 minutes to Midwood every day.
A new global history teacher, Ms. Jenkins, charms with her smile and love of life.
“I always knew I wanted to teach,” she said. “I remember playing school. Just to think it all started with a journalism major at Saint Johns College for one year.” Ms. Jenkins has now been teaching for seven years.
Before teaching she worked as a banker for six years.
“It was alright,” she said. “I just worked there to pay for college.”
She attended Queens College with a major in history and a minor in anthropology. She got her bachelor’s in secondary education, her masters in literacy education at Queens College, and a second masters at Mercy College in school counseling.
Some of her hobbies are reading (especially Harry Potter) and spending time with her kids. Her teaching career began in the Bronx at PS/MS 4. She taught grades 3-5 for one year
“It was interesting to say the least,” she said.
Ms. Jenkins then taught at the Brooklyn School for Music and Theater in Prospect Heights for five years.
“I really enjoyed it,” she said. “I miss my old students. But Midwood is where I need to be. I wasn’t growing as a teacher over there. The work ethic of Midwood students and the environment is what makes it different here. Midwood creates an environment where it’s cool to be smart and it’s cool to be exceptional.”
Ms. Jenkins’s choice of career is influenced by her desire to travel and her background.
“I wanted to travel, but I couldn’t afford it,” she said, “so I decided if I can’t go there, I’ll learn about it instead.”
She also wants to make a difference with the experience she has being a black woman.
“I was always quiet in school,” she said. “I remember my teachers used to skip over me when participating in class. It’s important for young women of color to also have women who look like them as teachers. I didn’t have that growing up.”
Ms. Jenkins’s biggest obstacle when becoming a teacher was finding a job. She graduated from Queens College in 2009 and did not start teaching until 2012. But her persistence paid off.
“I still get texts from my old students,” she said. “It’s good to know how I made an impact on lots of people’s lives. To know I supported them in any way is the reason that I teach.”
However, teaching can be exhausting.
“As a teacher, you have to take a lot home, and it can take time away,” she said. But the job does allow her to spend time with her children, and it has given her greater empathy for other people.
“My teaching style will change as time goes on,” Ms. Jenkins said. “You teach new kids all the time, so you have to adapt. I believe in hands-on teaching, and in global that’s sometimes difficult.”
Some lessons she has learned as a teacher are to “go with the flow” and not take things personally.
“People have bad days, even students,” Ms. Jenkins said. “Teaching is difficult but the relationships you build, the lives you touch, and knowing you’re able to shape the future, it’s just a blessing.”
“Students are sometimes misunderstood,” she said. “As adults, we forget that we were teens at one point. Most students want to learn. You just have to connect it. Respect them, and they’ll respect you.”