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Foday Dumbuya
2005 CREC Teacher of the Year

You could almost imagine Foday Dumbuya as an acclaimed concert hall conductor, so attuned is his ear to every student in his lower elementary classroom at Montessori Magnet School.

On a recent morning, Mr. Dumbuya moves between clusters of students working alone and in groups on reading comprehension, long division, U.S. geography, and grammar projects. A model of the solar system hangs from the ceiling and reports on countries line the walls. Students whisper animatedly among their groups, and there is near silence despite the activity in the classroom.

Mr. Dumbuya, sensing when his attention is needed at the other side of the room, moves to explain sentence diagramming to a student. “Why did you write this?” he asks, gently encouraging the student to explain his thought process. “Who received the action?” 

By using logic and reasoning, Mr. Dumbuya coaxes his students not only to uncover the correct answers, but to understand what makes them right. It is less about memorization and more about learning the stories behind each lesson in his classroom. “There are a lot of stories here,” he explains.

His keen sense of observation is key to his approach. “I observe where each child is and where he or she needs to be,” Mr. Dumbuya explains. “I believe that education should not only be about reading and writing, but about preparation for life.”

The students have learned that Mr. Dumbuya is both “fun and fair.” He is a teacher beloved for his tendency to dance around the classroom during lighter moments. But his students also understand that when it is time for their lessons, Mr. Dumbuya demands their full concentration. It’s a respectful give and take, he explains. “We are both working hard here – we have this in common.”

Mr. Dumbuya, who was named the 2005 CREC Teacher of the Year during his second year at the Montessori school, believes that each classroom is a family that should celebrate accomplishments together. His bowling parties, hiking trips, and other festivities are annual highlights for students and their families. 

He operates on the philosophy that all children want to learn. “I have the highest expectation for every child, irrespective of his background, be it social, economic, emotional or academic,” Mr. Dumbuya said. “I do not rest until all children succeed.” 

At the entrance to his classroom, Mr. Dumbuya presents all of his students with the same invitation: “Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet begun. We have only today. Let us begin.”

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