Teacher Appreciation Week: Nick Salibrici, PSLA at Fowler

     Published on 5/5/16   Tagged under:    District News    PSLA @ Fowler   

Walk around Nick Salibrici’s classroom and you’ll see student artwork covering nearly every inch of wall space. For a mid-year project, the PSLA at Fowler teacher’s 10th grade English class drew pictures of themselves, surrounding the image with words describing obstacles that they feel are holding them back and filling the image with words describing things they would like to continue doing well. Each drawing has been signed, by the student artist as well as two peers, serving as a contract to keep the students accountable for their actions.
“I ask them, ‘how would you decorate your bedroom? You’d decorate it like it’s your space,’” he explained. “So I tell them, ‘this is our room. It’s not what I’m putting up—it’s what we’re putting up together.”
Small tile drawings representing each student’s personality hang front and center in the classroom. In the back corner, an ESL student project is on display—construction paper folded and cut in all different shapes.
“This was a team building activity I did with the students,” Mr. Salibrici recalled. “They had to follow very specific directions in folding the paper. Even doing that, they all came out differently—it’s symbolic of how each of them is different and represents a different culture.”
In Mr. Salibrici’s classroom, the students come first, and learning comes second. Lucky for the 14 year teaching veteran, now in his second year at PSLA at Fowler, this strategy breeds student buy-in.
“I pride myself on knowing and relating to each student. I genuinely care about them as people before students—and that makes them feel empowered.”
His teaching style, he said, focuses on creating controlled chaos within the curriculum.
“My students never know what to expect—I throw them curve balls everyday to keep them on their toes,” he explained.
“I’ve always worked with urban youth, because I am an urban youth,” the Henninger alumnus said. “I believe in this city and what our youth have to offer. It’s been exciting to be a part of the positive change, to see it happening and know that I’m a part of it. Our students have so much passion and so much potential—I love being part of the group that is using the positive to push out the negative.”
Mr. Salibrici is too familiar with the negative public perception of city students, and that is a primary reason he holds his students to high expectations and holds them accountable for their actions. He is requiring his advanced 10th grade English class, for instance, to take the 11th grade English Regents this year so they can join a two-year AP English class he is planning to teach.
“We’re going to take the test, and we’re going to crush it,” he insists. “Because our students aren’t that negative stereotype,” he insists. “PSLA is shattering that stigma. We’re challenging our kids. We’re ensuring that not only are they college ready, but that when they get to college, they will stay there and be successful. Because these kids can be successful—it’s happening right now, and it’s happening at PSLA.”
Thank you, Mr. Salibrici, for your commitment to students at PSLA and Fowler!