Rasheeda Skinner engages her eighth-graders at Christ the Teacher, wants them to be critical thinkers
GLASGOW — Alexis Rabinovitch has been an eighth-grader at Christ the Teacher Catholic School for just a few months, but it didn’t take even that long for her to sing the praises of one of her teachers, Rasheeda Skinner, as deserving of special recognition.
“Mrs. Skinner is, without a doubt, one of the best teachers in Delaware,” Alexis wrote The Dialog. “She inspires all of us when she teaches us. … I consider myself blessed to have such an amazing teacher like her.”
Her nomination surprised Skinner, in her fourth year at Christ the Teacher.
“I’m just so humbled. This is my first time teaching this eighth-grade class, and it’s only been a couple of months,” she said.
A visit to Skinner’s classroom reveals a lively bunch of students, free to discuss and debate. Lectures are not Skinner’s style.
“I’m not that type of teacher,” she said. “I’m a critically thinking teacher. I’m just a critically thinking person. Like I tell them, I’m not here to teach you what to think. I’m here to teach you how to think. In order to pull that out, you have to ask those questions. If the answers are wrong, that’s fine, too.
“They know that they can say an answer, and if it’s wrong, we’re going to work it out. That’s part of learning. But I can’t sit down and do it. I’m not built that way.”
The Montgomery County, Pa., native graduated from Wilmington College with a degree in broadcast journalism and production, and she worked in the media before becoming an education paraprofessional in Delaware County, Pa. She returned to Wilmington University to get a master’s in education, and for her practicum she worked at Christ the Teacher.
After that ended, Skinner was doing some substitute teaching when a Christ the Teacher administrator sent her an email about a vacancy. She had never taught in a Catholic school, but she remembered how she had been treated during her practicum.
“I was really nervous. But the welcoming, the warmth of it, it was just amazing. It wasn’t like anything I had ever experienced,” she said.
She had always had a love of education, and working as a paraprofessional convinced her that it was her calling.
“I felt like I had something to give back. Not just content, but life. We don’t just do content; we teach the whole student. I’m teaching a soul how to live, how to be,” she said.
Her enthusiasm rubs off on her students, Alexis said.
“I love when Mrs. Skinner does her speeches about the Civil War or reconstruction or anything we’re learning. She gets up and she’s so enthusiastic, and she really does teach us it,” she said.
Skinner, who lives in Claymont and is pregnant with her third child, is not Catholic, but faith is an important part of her life. She appreciates the opportunity to share that with her students.
“To come in and be able to share that everyday, and it be OK and it be wonderful, it’s awesome. And, like I said, since I teach the whole student, I can teach that aspect, that part of them,” she said. “To be able to come to work everyday and express that, there’s nothing like that.”
It also helps her in a very demanding profession, one she calls a “mission” and a “desire.”
“You are in front of 34 bodies, human beings with different minds. In order to be effective, prayer is important. I can’t stand before them and not give them every aspect of me. It’s not fair.”
“I’m here to serve. My biggest prayer is that God just lead me to be who they need me to be and to let me say what they need to hear. So I just have to give glory to him because he gives me the words.”
She is due to have her baby in late March, so she will miss the last couple of months of the academic year. But, she assured Alexis, she will be there at graduation.
“I love my students. I care for them, and I want them to succeed,” she said. “I’ve done some things, and nothing is more rewarding than to see that ‘aha’ moment or to see that moment where they grasp that information and understand that information. There’s nothing like it at all.”