Teacher Spotlight: Ria Aquino

This week we’re pleased to share a bit about our Religious Studies Department Chair, Ria Aquino, who teaches all of our seniors in the World Religions course. We’re proud of our seniors and the tenacity with which they are closing out their high school careers.

“This senior class responds to the course differently than last year’s seniors, and I feel as a teacher it is important for me to respond to who they are and let go of things that aren’t working for them,” said Ria. The course is heavily driven by narrative: “There is an opportunity to talk about bias and misconception and how we combat that: studying the faith, challenging one’s own stereotypes and naming them, thinking critically, and then recrafting informed narratives.

“I’ve really appreciated being able to incorporate current events as related to religious groups we studied. It was great to have Ramadan happening while we were studying Islam, for example. It’s exciting to see how familiar the girls are afterward and observant of things going on in the world and not just their neighborhood.

“Being able to expose students to cultural nuances and expose them to what people’s experiences are around the world has been a gift for creating work that is about critical thinking and answering essential questions. 

“This time of distance teaching has actually allowed me to pay more attention to figuring out what is essential in what I teach. It’s easy to give busy work, but especially now it’s not respectful. There are seniors who are working at jobs because parents can’t or are taking care of siblings while parents work. Their attention span, available time, and even mental-emotional capacity are being significantly impacted. I want the work to be meaningful and challenging but not to the point that it’ll break them down. I want to provide for, and be responsive to, their needs. Keeping an open line of communication so important.”

When asked how she does that, Ms. Aquino shared how she is taking the opportunity to comment more, even on small daily tasks, so that her students know she is paying attention to them. There is no chance to make eye contact as one would in a classroom so feedback is uniquely critical now. She also shared some of the fun: “During spring break, I held little workshops where it could just be us hanging out. Some were YouTube inspired, like my skincare favorites or snacking together. Not everyone went, but it was an opportunity to sit and be with each other outside of class, just as humans.”

We are pleased that Ms. Aquino, who is also a part of our retreat team, is an educator who consistently encourages and demonstrates humanity with our students.

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