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A Brief But Spectacular take on inspiring a love of learning


Notice: Transcripts are machine and human generated and lightly edited for accuracy. They may contain errors.

Amna Nawaz: Joan Wicks is a sixth grade humanities teacher in Los Angeles who helped her students rebound from COVID learning loss through her devotion and advocacy. The school was recently recognized with the California Distinguished Schools Award.

Tonight, she shares her Brief But Spectacular take on inspiring a love of learning.

Joan Wicks, Humanities Teacher: Literacy is so important in raising the next generation of kids because we have never had a generation that's about to face what they're facing.

And I'm talking about something that we have taken for granted, like hanging on to our democracy. So kids have to be an educated and active citizenry to safeguard our country for the future.

I'm not entirely sure that I chose to become a classroom teacher. I think it chose me. I specifically remember learning to read in the first grade, and I was so excited about that. It was like magic had opened up to me. I found school to be relatively easy because I was such a great reader, and that got me all the way through college.

I work at a small charter school in south Los Angeles; 98 percent of our kids qualify for free and reduced lunch. We have about 35 percent English language learners. Despite these demographics and statistics, there's a lot of hope in this community, and that's one of the reasons I love working there.

The sixth grade students I'm teaching right now went home in the middle of the second grade during the pandemic, and that was a really critical time, because it's before most kids have become fluent readers. A good number of our students came in reading on the third grade level, and they seem stuck there.

One of the things that we do at our school to help young readers is, we provide intervention classes in reading and math for all of our students. So many people were worried about the kids, but they're rebounding and they're coming back with a vengeance. I feel like I'm witnessing a living miracle in South Los Angeles.

My approach to teaching aligns with my approach to parenting, because I set very high expectations for my children. If you set that bar high, they're going to try to meet that bar. Well, I have three children. Gabrielle is in the film industry. My son, Spencer, is employed at a major U.S. bank. And Amanda was the inaugural youth poet laureate of the United States, and she's also published four books. So she's living a very successful life as a poet.

The advice I would give to parents about sparking a love of reading and learning in your children is, you have to be that person. Children are sponges. They look to their parents for everything, the bad habits you picked up. Even your little quirks, they will pick those up too.

It's really important that kids experience what a library has to offer, because, aesthetically, libraries are beautiful. When kids see the beauty of books and beauty of the library and it's a comfortable space, that makes them want to learn and read and come back. So a library is a great place for parents to take their kids.

I get so much joy working with these young minds and watching them grow. I keep coming back to the classroom year after year because I get as much from the students as they get from me.

My name is Dr. Joan Wicks, and this is my Brief But Spectacular take on inspiring a love of learning.

Amna Nawaz: And you can watch more Brief But Spectacular videos online at

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