Even during his high school years as a student in Jersey City, Justice Baskin knew he wanted to pursue a service-oriented career. As a student at Caldwell University, this passion giving back to his community transformed into a career in teaching.
Today, Justice is a lead Pre-AP World History teacher at KIPP Newark Collegiate Academy. We spoke with Justice about why he entered teaching and how his early career has been supported by his teammates at KIPP Newark.
What made you want to become a history teacher?
It was a combination of things. I always knew I wanted to give back to my community and I’ve always had a passion for history. During my student teaching placement at Glen Ridge High School in NJ, I loved how I was able to form relationships with my students and learn from the teachers with whom I was placed.
Bearing witness to the 2016 presidential election was another an eye-opening experience that reinforced the importance of students understanding politics through a historical lens and engaging in critical thinking in the classroom. I wanted to be able to pass along my passion for history to my students as well as a sense of urgency that is needed in the community due to the systematic oppression of the American education system.
What made you choose KIPP Newark?
During my senior year, I was searching for open teaching positions and saw a posting for KIPP Newark. My professor Frank Corrado, told me to apply because he was familiar with our schools and knew we had Caldwell alums who were teaching here and having a positive experience.
When I started researching KIPP, I knew right off the bat that my approach to helping kids reach their full potential through strong relationships and high expectations aligned with theirs. I went to visit and was impressed with the way they integrated technology into the classroom so that it aided learning—and better yet, it actually worked!
How did your graduate program help prepare you to be an effective teacher?
I learned so much from Caldwell University’s teaching program. I was lucky to have great professors and opportunities to practice my teaching skills in so many different school settings, from suburban to urban schools, including public, private, and Catholic schools.
I student-taught and observed in several schools completed well over 400 clinical hours in Bloomfield High School, Glen Ridge High School, Trinity Academy, Mt. Saint Dominic Academy in Caldwell, and my own alma mater, Lincoln High School in Jersey City. Through my student teaching experiences, I learned that students everywhere are equally smart and capable—whether they achieve their goals depends heavily on the resources available to them. Students mostly just want teachers to see and acknowledge them in the classroom.
Professors like Frank Corrado taught me the importance of creating high expectations for not only my students but also myself. With high expectations, high achievement follows.
“Through my student teaching experiences, I learned that students everywhere are equally smart and capable—whether they achieve their goals depends heavily on the resources available to them. Students mostly just want teachers to see and acknowledge them in the classroom.”
How have you continued to grow as a teacher at KIPP Newark?
Everyone here has been so supportive of my growth. Every day during 8th period we have history content meeting where we check in on curriculum and the resources we have to implement creatively.
As a grade, we come together every Thursday and Friday to review data and see what we can do to improve student learning. We work together to evaluate student writing work against a rubric of skills students need to excel as history learners and critical thinkers. My grade level chair Dennis Knight, along with a plethora of teammates who are always available to bounce ideas on how we can make students feel they are loved, celebrated, and are set up for success in school and in life. Between informal coaching and professional development sessions, we receive about 300 hours of professional development time each year.
I have a high bar for success in my classroom—it’s not an AP class for our freshmen, but we use the AP rubric and students are expected to take the AP classes as sophomores, along with the exam. We set the bar high right from the beginning, which encourages me to push my own teaching. I know the better I am, when my students are sophomores they will have the historical schema needed to take on an AP level class as well as pass the AP exam scoring in the upper quartile. Which translates into college credits that will save students thousands of dollars in college.
My teammates are so supportive and helpful, I still remember once having an off day where I was stressed and I’ll never forget how the staff came together to offer support—several people texted me to find out what kind of support I needed and on that day I knew this is the team I can be a part of for years to come.
What’s your favorite part of teaching at KIPP Newark?
My amazing students! They’re so funny and intelligent. So much of teaching is based on relationship-building and I’m able to see a lot of what’s going on in their lives, inside and outside the classroom. We’re like a close-knit family.
I also love that teaching world history allows me to take my students on a journey around the world! We’re in the classroom, but we’re learning about everything from African to Asian history.
Do you have any advice for first-year teachers?
Don’t be afraid to ask questions! Being a lead teacher early in your teaching career can be nerve-wracking, but you’ll have the support you need if you reach out to your fellow teachers and coaches.
Justice Baskins is an early-career History teacher at KIPP Newark Collegiate Academy. Like other educators at KIPP Newark, Justice receives at least 300 hours of engaging professional development and personal coaching throughout the school year to continually sharpen his skills.
Interested in joining our team and family? Head here to review current opportunities: jobs.kippnj.org