At the start of each school day, students in Cara Beseda’s kindergarten class at P.S. 87 sit in a circle and share something that is going on in their lives, whether it is an upcoming dentist appointment, a dance recital or something at home.
As students share their thoughts, the other students often chime in and talk about similar experiences, Beseda said. Acknowledging that kindergarten is a transitional year, Beseda, 30, said she strives to create a classroom where students can trust each other.
“Everything I do is to create a safe, nurturing learning environment for the kids,” Beseda said. “We work really hard at building a community.”
Parents of her students say she goes above and beyond.
“When my daughter entered Cara’s class, I felt like I had won the lottery,” said Lisa Katzenstein.
Katzenstein recalled earlier this school year when the class had gone on a field trip; her daughter was wearing new shoes that were giving her blisters on her feet.
“Cara took off her socks and gave them to her so she wouldn’t get blisters,” Katzenstein said. “She is just so passionate about her job and the children.”
Beseda has been teaching at P.S. 87 for five years. Before coming to P.S. 87, she taught at two other public schools in the city for four years.
She grew up in Holmdel, N.J., and attended the University of Maryland, where she studied political science. During high school and college, Beseda volunteered at local schools and worked with children.
Upon graduating college, Beseda joined Teach for America, a national corps of recent college graduates who commit to teaching in low-income communities for two years.
Once she joined the organization and decided to pursue a career in teaching, she said she never looked back.
“I knew I had found my place. I knew I was meant to spend my days teaching children,” she said.
Beseda said she remembers the teachers she loved when she was growing up and is inspired by them.
“I specifically remember the teachers who tried to make a personal connection with me, and that’s what I try to do,” she said. “I want them to know I care about them.”
Parents of Beseda’s former students say Beseda made their children feel loved.
“When I would go to pick up my daughter, she would come out holding Cara’s hand,” said Rachel Richardson, whose daughter was in Beseda’s class four years ago. “She was there for her when she needed her.”
While many of the parents say Beseda gives “150 percent” to her teaching, she says she couldn’t do it without her father, who takes her to buy things for the school year and often comes to the classroom to help bring things in.
Beseda lives in Manhattan with her husband, a teacher she met through Teach for America. She said she feels lucky to have found her husband and a job she loves at the same time.
“It’s so rewarding, especially in kindergarten, to watch the students learn how to be members of a community and to watch them grow academically,” she said. “It’s really an extraordinary process to watch and be a part of.”
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