Author Archives: helena

goodbye Moxie

Having completed my summer at Moxie, I am now left to reflect on the amazing experience I had and the immense growth I experienced and witness throughout the six weeks. The following areas are all tied for most improved:


1.) Confidence in the classroom. This was a big one, both for the girls and myself. I really had to tune in to my own intuition to cater to girls’ needs and bring them out of their shells. Some girls were strong oral and visual learners, some were better with written assessments, and some simply needed additional individual attention. I can say that, by the end of the program, I had 100% active participation in my classes – a massive increase from week 1.

2.) Academic growth. On the second-to-last day at Moxie, the girls took the diagnostic that they were given week 1 of the program. Not only did the majority of girls show improvement in at least one of the two subjects (math and science), but also the efforts displayed by each girl had increased. Girls were attempting to do difficult problems instead of skipping them or giving up.

3.) Improved personal relationships. The hardest part of leaving Moxie was saying goodbye to the girls. By the end, I had formed unique relationships with most of them, even girls that I never expected to bond with. Like saying goodbye to any friend, it was sad and difficult, but also contained the extra weight of not knowing if/when I will see these girls again, and of the uncertainty about what will become of them.


Through Moxie, I experienced firsthand many of the issues that plague the New Orleans public school system, such as poverty, inconsistent attendance and inadequate resources. Having worked in New Orleans public schools in the past, and hoping to continue that work, I would like to really focus in on those specific problems. I believe that the system must be fixed from within, and addressing these issues can pave the way for a public school system in which parents can be proud to enroll their children.


To a future Moxie intern, my main piece of advice would be to really take the time to get to know each and every one of the girls. Spend one-on-one time with them, ask them about their weekends and home lives, and take advantage of your free periods to just observe them. You will end up with more than pupils – you will have new friends and babies.


To an aspiring teacher, my advice is to STAY ON TOP OF YOUR LESSON PLANS. DO NOT GET BEHIND. You will regret it. Also, survey your students at all opportunities. Get feedback on what they like and dislike and on your performance. Make sure to align your teachings with the appropriate grade level standards for your state. Last, but certainly not least, implement different teaching strategies and tactics for different students – really cater to the individual as much as possible.


To a student hoping to enter the nonprofit sector, my advice is to be flexible – especially with a start-up. There will be kinks of all kinds. Go with the flow, have back-up plans and be ready to improvise if necessary. Get creative – enlist the help of friends, family, etc. if you need additional resources.


Overall, Moxie taught me that despite being born into rough circumstances, everyone is not their circumstance. By addressing issues such as poverty, violence and abuse at a young age, we can help young people rise above these hardships. Children must grow up learning that they have the ability to go to college and be successful regardless of what they come from.

halfway point :(

It’s so crazy to think I’m at the halfway point at Moxie.

I got this internship through the math department at Tulane and had no idea how much work it would be. Jumping from a math tutor to a daily teacher has been immense. Planning lessons is difficult, but I’ve certainly learned the merits of planning far in advance!

Math can be tough, because it’s hard to convince kids to want to do math. We don’t want Moxie to feel too much like school, but it is important that the girls show academic growth over the course of the program. There are days that I have to lecture and give assignments, but I try to spend more time on projects. I’ve found that mixing math with art projects works really well. For example, we are currently “building a dream house.” The girls are working in groups to design and furnish a house. They were given a budget and parameters for what the house should/should not include. They created a floor plan, budget sheet, and collage of the furnishings. I’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback on this project – this was the first time the girls have expressed real enjoyment for a math project.

Science lab has posed some different challenges. Unlike math, the girls seem really interested and excited about science. Before starting Moxie, I imagined doing constant science projects and experiments. Financially, that hasn’t really been possible. I’ve been able to do about two projects/experiments a week, while the other days are devoted to lessons. The girls have expressed some dissatisfaction about this, but as a start-up nonprofit we just don’t have the funds.

I won’t lie, I have my favorites amongst the girls, but I have found that each one of them is so special and unique. I am so pleased with the way my relationships with the girls have grown. Some of them were very affectionate from the start; others took awhile to open up. They are all minority girls from low-income families. Many of them have experienced the premature death of a loved one, violence at home and sexual abuse. To see girls who have been through so much get so excited over baking soda volcanoes is easily enough to make my week.

I have faced some challenges since starting at Moxie. One big problem we have is attendance; most girls do not attend consistently, which makes it really hard to teach (especially for project-based learning). Another difficulty has been working on such a tight budget – we are unable to buy a lot of classroom supplies.

“Glows”: I feel that I have learned how to effectively communicate with each girl. I understand that some girls need to be communicated with in specific ways and I have catered to the academic and personal needs of each girl. I am also proud of myself for the way I’ve adapted to certain aspects of Moxie. Typically, in the workplace, I am not a flexible person. I have learned that being so rigid just doesn’t work here. There have been times that I’ve had to change lesson plans last minute – I’ve learned the importance of having a back-up plan!


“Grows”: It can be difficult not to get frustrated. There have been moments where I’ve found myself completely losing my patience/cool. There have been incidents where I snapped at my helper or one of the girls. Whether my point was justified or not, I think I can try to improve the way I deal with frustration. Additionally, I still haven’t quite mastered the integration of relevant content and the method of project-based learning. I’ve found the material in the diagnostics to be difficult to translate into games and projects – specifically in math.


Moxie Leadership Academy is a start-up nonprofit summer program that targets incoming fifth and sixth grade girls by measuring academic and personal growth. We are based at Crocker Elementary School on Gen. Taylor. Day 1 was relatively slow; the girls were assessed in mathematics, science and emotional intelligence. Moxie is centered on the idea of project-based learning – girls do hands-on projects to learn instead of the traditional lectures, worksheets and homework.

I am working alongside a great team! Vanessa is our supervisor. She handles all the reservations, finances and other logistics. Christina is covering logic/critical thinking and interpersonal skills. I also have a classroom aid, Malajah. She is an incoming eighth grader and will probably be a huge help to me.

The idea is that the girls learn and grow without feeling like they’re in school (because they aren’t!). I’m anticipating this being a tough balance to strike. The daily schedule includes:

  • Advisory – This usually involves some sort of team building exercise or activity for the girls to get to know one another better
  • Breakfast
  • Math – I’m hoping to cover area, perimeter, volume, surface area, circumference, fractions, some statistics and probability
  • Workshop – This will be some sort of construction project or craft
  • Social action project – Students will choose social issues they feel passionately about and design an action or solution to further their beliefs
  • Interpersonal skills – This class will focus on personal growth and the growth of friendships amongst the girls
  • Lunch
  • Science – Includes mostly hands-on projects and experiments
  • Logic/Critical Thinking – Projects and activities that involve problem solving
  • Fitness – There will be a different instructor each week teaching different physical classes
  • Game time – organized games that the girls play together
  • Fridays include pamoja in place of science lab. Here students will showcase what have made/experienced throughout the week. Parents will attend.

I teach four classes every day – fifth grade math, sixth grade math, fifth grade science and sixth grade science. I am incredibly nervous planning all these lessons. I have no certification and no teaching experience aside from some tutoring. I’m also nervous about facilitating personal relationships with the girls, and striking the balance between friend and teacher in being a mentor to them.

All the girls come from low-income families, and I expect that poverty isn’t even the worst that some of them have experienced. That’s why it is so important to me to not only engage the girls in STEM, but to help them grow into strong, motivated young women.