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Expanding His Impact Through Honesty and Respect

Noah Lumpkin-Navarez creates an affirming learning environment where feelings and opinions are welcome

Alt: Photo of Noah Lumpkin-Navarez

June 15, 2023

Noah Lumpkin-Navarez (LA ‘22)

10th grade ELA teacher - Alliance Morgan McKinzie High School

Noah Lumpkin-Navarez’s tenth-grade Language Arts classroom is colorfully staged with art from his current and former students. It’s an authentic mish-mash of handmade and store-bought posters with serious themes, like climate change and racial justice, as well as lighthearted images like a frog sniffing flowers. The back contains a vision board tiled with papers where students illustrate their passions, interests, and hopes. Sometimes their creations are updated or replaced when things change, as was the case for the student whose new tile Noah was stapling to the wall, “He and his girlfriend broke up,” he gently explained, “so he didn’t want the reminder.”

This is one of Noah’s teaching superpowers–his sincerity and truthfulness. He encourages student communication and advocacy, creating space for them to express their thoughts and opinions. The result is an environment with free-flowing respect when students feel challenged and heard. 

“I’m trying to build a foundation with them so they have the skills to succeed,” explains Noah, “I’ve learned every student is in a different place. It’s important to see them–to recognize them individually and celebrate what they bring to the classroom.”

Noah Lumpkin-Navarez

Los Angeles Corps Member 2022

One way he brings this to life is by “leveraging their own interests” ensuring they “see themselves” reflected in his teaching materials. In turn, students take a more active role in their learning. Especially when engaging in assignments drawing connections between their personal experiences and literary themes or historical movements. 

At the beginning of the school year, Noah asked his tenth-graders to write a letter to their future selves with their hopes and aspirations. 9 months later, they read their letters and responded. “I saw their hearts turning and twisting. Some felt bad because they weren’t living up to the promises they made themselves,” tells Noah, “But I told them we’re not done yet, and there's always time to grow.” Noah believes wholeheartedly in people’s ability to change and develop. He continues to evolve as both a teacher and person and doesn’t hide the messier parts of this process from his students. During a rough morning when he was overcome by anxiety from his upcoming educator credentialing exam, his students noticed and asked him to run through some deep breathing exercises he had previously taught them. Their directions proved effective–Noah’s anxiety was replaced with gratitude for their collective compassion. 

A classroom is a place of learning and Noah thinks that is just as true for himself as it is for his tenth-graders. He prompts students to provide feedback on his lessons and makes real-time adjustments. “I allow them to advocate for themselves about their needs and wants and then am responsive so they know they’re being heard.” Through this process, he’s discovered that his students “are an entirely new generation and learn completely differently.” So he’s learned to adapt quickly and be flexible–artfully integrating state standards with topics teenagers care about. “You're going to run into a lot of walls. You have to be open-minded with the kids and the entire community–then doors will open.”