Moneisha Cunningham is a 5th and 6th grade science teacher at Harriet Tubman Charter School. A graduate of Auburn University and a student at the Relay Graduate School of Education, Moneisha is in her second year at Tubman.
Moneisha originally had dreams of becoming a pediatrician, but after completing a summer program, she realized becoming a doctor wasn’t what she wanted to do. She thought back to all of the times she helped tutor her friends in chemistry and realized her true passion was in education.
Since starting at Tubman in 2016, Moneisha has spent her days in the classroom pushing her students to interact with things they may not be familiar with, inspiring them to learn about the world and how they are impacting the Earth.
“The most rewarding thing is seeing the light bulb go off on a student’s face when they make connections,” she said. “When they struggle with a topic but are determined to understand and are able to put the pieces of the puzzle together with different clues, it is an exciting moment for them and a great moment in our classroom.”
Middle School Director of Curriculum and Instruction, Charlie DePietro, believes that her devotion to her students and her love of chemistry has made her a favorite in the middle school halls.
“She has made her students feel really passionate about science, and she is a person that they see themselves in,” he said. “When she would talk about being in Relay last year, she modeled for them how to go to school and continue your education, even after you have received your Bachelor’s degree. Students really embraced that,” he said.
“Whether it is reading, studying history, or conducting science experiments, Moneisha loves school and loves to learn about and explore new things,” he added. “She wants to make each of her students love learning and explore the world they live in.”
Teaching her students about chemistry through experiments is one of Moneisha’s favorite things about teaching.
“While their curious and questioning minds encourage them to use the Internet to look up different science phenomena, it is always awesome to introduce something new to them that they have never seen before,” she said. “My favorite demonstration this year was lighting magnesium for my 6th graders. It was a great light show!”
Her students also appreciate the hands-on experiences they are getting in her classroom.
“Ms. Cunningham is funny and kind.” 5th grade student Damiah L. expressed. “She helps us do fun things like labs. We got to dissect owl pellets!”
Her students also appreciate her patience with them as they are learning new things.
“When we don’t understand something, Ms. Cunningham doesn’t get frustrated,” says 7th grader Jazzmene B. “She likes to make sure we understand completely and are engaged in what we are leaning.”
Mr. DePietro believes her students’ passion for chemistry is growing as a direct result of her ability to bring experiments right to them in their classrooms.
“When she lit a piece of magnesium on fire, it was such an exciting thing for kids to see; they all immediately answered her question about the reaction.”
He also recognizes the personal growth Moneisha has experienced since working at Tubman.
“Over the past two years, I have seen her grow in her confidence and in her ability to make things as rigorous and student-centered as possible,” he said.
Moneisha acknowledges this same growth and believes that it is due to the colleagues she works with every single day.
“I’ve grown by listening more and asking for assistance when needed. We all have common goals at Tubman that every teacher strives for; asking for help to achieve those goals has not only made me a better teacher, but also a more efficient teacher,” she said.
When she isn’t inspiring her student’s love of chemistry, Moneisha enjoys reading in her free time.
“I love visiting local bookstores; it’s always exciting because I find awesome books I can share with my students and books that are limited editions for great prices. I’ve had to cut down on visits because I’m buying more books than I am reading!”
Want to see Moneisha in action? Check out her scholars learning about chemical reactions here.