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Pacer NYC

The Student News Site of Pace High School

Pacer NYC

Joseph Zoboi’s ‘Beautiful People’

photo Ally Dolores

Mr. Zoboi first arrived at Pace High School in 2016. During his eight years, he has not only been a teacher but a mentor, friend and role model.

Before Pace, Mr. Zoboi’s story started all the way in the Caribbean and West Africa.

Mr. Zoboi bounced around Trinidad and Tobago and Liberia as a child and it wasn’t until he graduated high school where he came to live in the United States.

Mr. Zoboi had a complex relationship with art from a young age. Mr. Zoboi recalled art being “the only class I was kicked out of.” As a headstrong teenager, Mr. Zoboi constantly butted heads with his art teacher. He was frustrated that his teacher always told him what he needed to do and never saw what he could do. Mr. Zoboi would ignore instructions and worked on his own projects which led to conflict with his teacher.

Mr. Zoboi’s frustration with his art teacher heavily influences his teaching style. He allows his students to freely express

Art displayed in Mr. Zoboi’s room. (Ally Dolores)

themselves and when you look around his room, you see that he isn’t lying as no two pieces are the same.

When Mr. Zoboi first started teaching, he was a 17-year-old student working at P.S. 14 in Brooklyn. He was assigned to work with an art teacher as a mentee. This experience was not a means to teaching art, but simply a job for young Zoboi. He then studied for his master’s degree at Brooklyn College.

Before teaching officially, Mr. Zoboi had many different jobs from construction to set design. Eventually, he was given an ultimatum between a job in set design and furthering his career in education where he finally committed to teaching art.

He did not start with the public school system in the early 2010s, but by 2016, Mr. Zoboi found himself at Pace.

He realized that no two years were the same during his early years of teaching. There were different levels of artistic ability among his students. However, it all depended on his perspicacious observations on what level of creativity he met his students at.

Not only did Mr. Zoboi incorporate the artistic abilities of his students, he was drawn to the importance of making a connection with his students.

Art projects that are under construction. (Ally Dolores)

“I never forgot what it was like when I was your age,” he said. “And I remember the feelings that I had, the frustrations that I had. Even my own background with my own personal situations. There was not really that much emotional consistency in my life.” He believes that communication can feel forced if there is no connection.

Mr. Zoboi stated that New York City has a level of classism and, in a way, racism is embedded in it. “There was a big emotional shift when I moved here as a teenager.” His level of emotional maturity stemmed from how distinct his level of emotional development was.

Through his experiences in classism and racism together, there was an increase in the level of his frustration. As a teacher, Mr. Zoboi is able to address these issues within society and emphasizes how high his level of emotional maturity is.

He is able to employ empathy, self-awareness and a willingness to challenge this unjust system. He is able to foster an inclusive and supportive environment to help other students on their journey of growth and maturity as well.

The emotional connection that Mr. Zoboi has with his students allows him to connect with them, not only academically, but in a way where they can be as open and honest as possible.

He believed the question, “How are you doing?” is a better substitute for “What are you doing?”

“At the end of the day, everybody wants to be heard,” Mr. Zoboi said.

The emotional connection between a teacher and a student can be quite profound. Mr. Zoboi finds a way to invest an abundance of time and energy into understanding his students’ needs, strengths, weaknesses, and challenges they come across. He finds a way to create a sense of mutual trust and respect.

For students, it is comforting to know that there is a teacher who supports their growth and believes in their further development. For Mr. Zoboi, seeing his students grow spiritually, emotionally and academically allows him to feel rewarded and fulfilled.

“Beauty is a glass of water in the desert. Beauty is a baby’s laughter. Beauty is something that is precious and that can be lost in an instant, so you have to appreciate it whenever it’s there. And it’s in everybody.”

So, when Mr. Zoboi says his famous farewell: “Beautiful people, it’s about that time!” it is meant to acknowledge that “precious thing that’s within everybody.”

Ally Dolores

It is important to realize that the emotional connection between students and teachers can create a nurturing learning environment where both parties feel valued. In this case, Mr. Zoboi does exceptionally well.

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About the Contributors
Tiago Neves, Sports Editor
Tiago Neves, a senior, is the Pacer’s sports editor. Tiago plays varsity volleyball for Pace as their setter and varsity flag-football as their quarterback.
Ally Dolores, Editor-In-Chief
Ally Dolores, a sophomore, is the Editor-In-Chief of Pacer NYC. She is known for taking initiative in situations where she is needed. Ally has learned to motivate others and herself for a productive and healthy environment!

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