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DePauw program names Brooklyn writing teacher Battey Educator of the Year

DePauw’s Honor Scholar Program is recognizing a Brooklyn, New York, writing teacher who, his nominator said, “made us feel seen.”

Battey award winner Dwight Jennings with baby daughterDwight Jennings, who teaches 11th-grade English at Brooklyn Collaborative Studies, is the 2022 Battey National Educator of the Year, an honor awarded annually to a secondary school teacher who inspired a DePauw honor scholar graduating senior. (Photo: Jennings with his daughter Noemi.)

Jennings taught seventh-grade English in Tampa, Florida, before moving to New York, where he taught eighth-grade social studies for a year. He also taught literacy skills to second and third graders at Harlem RBI for two years. Nine years ago, he started teaching at Brooklyn Collaborative, where Mahogany Brim ’22, a DePauw honor scholar and Posse scholar, took his writing class. She is majoring in English writing and minoring in global French studies at DePauw.

Jennings “cultivated and enhanced my love for reading and writing,” Brim wrote in a nominating letter. He taught her a writing method called “TIED” – for topic sentence, introduction to evidence, evidence and discussion – and that caused her to make her writing more concise. She said Jennings is “one of the only Black teachers in a school where 96% of the students are Black and Hispanic. To some, that information may seem trivial but it does matter. Dwight was the only teacher that could really connect and relate to us.”

Students in the class Jennings teaches him with a teaching partner have won The Art of Me competition for the last three years, resulting in their short stories being turned into short films and a graphic novel. Jennings holds a bachelor’s degree in creative writing and a master’s degree in teaching, both from the University of South Florida.

In an essay Jennings was asked to submit about his teaching philosophy, he wrote that he has “a few core beliefs that connect every great teacher I’ve ever had.” They are:

  • Build strong relationships.

  • Have high expectations.

  • Always leave your door open.

  • Just be: “Be courageous enough to allow students to know the real you. Be willing to empower them to share the parts of themselves that they sometimes feel the need to hide. Be worthy of their confidence and trust. Be vigilant for the spontaneous opportunities that present themselves to be relatable. Be a believer in their potential and your ability to help them achieve it when setting expectations. Be perceptive enough to know when something is wrong so that you can always be ready with an ear and a shoulder to support them. Be in love with what you do so that they will love what you are doing. Finally, be yourself.”

The Battey award was created in 2008 by Joan Westman Battey ’54 and her husband Charles to thank pre-college educators who have made an enduring difference in the lives of DePauw students. Senior honor scholars are invited each fall to nominate a teacher who inspired them and continues to have an impact on their intellectual curiosity. The teacher’s essay is used – along with the nomination letter and a recommendation letter from the teacher’s principal – by the Honor Scholar Program to choose the Battey winner. The award provides a cash prize for Jennings of about $9,800 and about $3,450 for his school, to be spent on his recommendations. 


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