New Schools for New Orleans is proud to sponsor the Gambit’s Frontline People Awards, featured in this week’s issue.

Together with the Louisiana Association of Public Charter Schools, we highlighted three “education heroes”. We’ll be sharing their stories, and others, with you over the coming weeks.

Check out our School Heroes video of Ms. Dora Kebadio Muanda on Facebook!

Ms. Dora Kebadio Muanda

Science Teacher, Lycée Français de la Nouvelle-Orléans

Dora Kebadio Muanda teaches 6th grade science and 10th grade Biology at Lycée Français de la Nouvelle-Orléans, a public charter French immersion school, accredited by the French Ministry of Education. She was recruited from Belgium as a “foreign associate teacher” by the Council for the Development of French in Louisiana.

“When I was younger, I wanted to be a doctor, but I realized I’m more excited about finding out what is going well in people and encouraging them to develop their strength rather than finding out what’s going wrong and trying to fix it. I wanted to find the strength. And who better than a teacher to highlight people’s strengths?” she asks.

She believes that Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) education is a particularly powerful way to bring out the strength in young people, communities, and even whole nations.

“There was a time when a country’s wealth was measured with the quality of natural resources. But today the wealth of a modern nation is measured primarily in the innovation in science and technology. The goal of STEM education is to create that innovative mindset in the youth,” she explains.

Ms. Kebadio Muanda believes in hands-on learning, and most years, she finds many opportunities for labs and experiments in her classroom. This year, of course, COVID-19 has meant that students could not share common materials, or sometimes be in their classrooms at all. But Kebadio Muanda has found joyful workarounds that allow learning to remain physically engaging.

To remember the difference between the states of matter, for instance, she has students pull their hands together as a solid, wiggle them apart just a bit for a liquid, then send their hands apart and fingers waving to represent the motion of a gas. Then she has her whole class of students go through those motions in a rhythm all together, chanting in French, “solid, liquid, gas!”

And Ms. Kebadio Muanda’s methods stick.

“I always say to my students, ‘you know that you know something if you are able to wake up at three in the morning and answer a question without any doubt.’ And at the beginning of the year, a student said to me, ‘I will never wake up in the night and think about science.’ And then at the end of the year, he came to me and he said ‘ma’am, I woke up in the middle of the night, and I was thinking about science!’”

Even throughout a pandemic, Ms. Kebadio Muanda has continued to bring science to life for her students and spark the strength in them. Her own strengths as a teacher are abundantly clear.

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