AIG at George Watts: Beyond Math and Literacy

By Jalen Faison

What makes a great teacher? Undoubtedly, this question has been asked in education for decades; will likely be a topic of discussion for years to come. In answering this question, oftentimes many think of patience, understanding, flexibility, knowledge, and empathy. Ms. DeBlaquiere, one of the two AIG teachers at George Watts Montessori Elementary School in Durham, North Carolina, exhibits all of these traits in addition to the unique, but equally important, trait of nurturing. In her eleventh year at George Watts, Ms. DeBlaquiere teaches--and also nurtures--Pre-K, Kindergarten, 1st, 2nd, and 3rd-grade students. Whether they're increasing their vocabulary with short stories or strengthening their problem-solving skills through one-step and two-step variable equations, the students in Ms. DeBlaquiere's class receive a great wealth of academic enrichment.

But the learning doesn't stop there. In the safe environment she has cultivated, her students are encouraged to develop important collaboration and critical thinking and other social and emotional skills alongside their curricular work. The balancing act isn't always easy, but at the end of the day, Ms. DeBlaquiere ensures her students are and will always be capable--for AIG and beyond. Earlier in the semester, I read a work of literature by British-Ghanian author Caleb Azumah Nelson titled Open Water (2021). In this, the scholar writes: "language fails us, always."

As I attempt to articulate the gratitude I feel, I simultaneously now understand Nelson's sentiment. Words, as I am discovering, cannot describe the appreciation I feel for both George Watts for welcoming me into their space and for the many cohorts of students who allowed me to document their educational lives; what it means to be in an AIG program at a Montessori school.

I want to extend my overwhelming gratitude to Ms. DeBlaquiere--whom I've worked closely with over the last semester. For the better part of the last eight weeks, she has not only welcomed me into her space of learning and nurturing but also made the transition into one that was both warm and smooth. We truly need more teachers like Ms. DeBlaquiere. The conclusion of a semester brings with it inevitable change. However, one thing that will never change is Ms. DeBlaquiere's love and care for her students; her drive to launch them forward, to AIG and beyond.