MNPS Voices: Jorge Katawala, ELA Teacher, Margaret Allen Middle School

MNPS Voices: Jorge Katawala, ELA Teacher for SIFE Students, Margaret Allen Middle School
Posted on 11/15/2023
Jorge Katawala with student in class

Jorge Katawala in front of school mural

Jorge Katawala made a dream come true when he became a teacher this year after working for more than five years as an interpreter at various schools through the MNPS Office of English Learners.

Katawala now serves as an English Language Arts teacher at Margaret Allen Middle School, teaching students in the sixth through eighth grades who have been identified as EL-SIFE, or English Learners-Students with Interrupted Formal Education. He uses his language skills to teach foundational skills in literacy.

He finds the most joy in teaching when he can explain the meaning of certain words in Spanish, for example. He loves seeing the students, even if they are not proficient readers, realize that if they concentrate on the meaning of the cognates, or words that look identical in English and Spanish, it will help them understand the overall meaning and will provide a context clue.

“It gives me a great deal of satisfaction when I have the kids engaged in the text interpretation, making inferences, asking questions or making remarks about the subject,” he said. “So anytime I get them to practice their deep-dive knowledge, they surprise me in the ways that they choose words and present them in a speech or written presentation.”

For Katawala, the key to making any lesson relevant is to make it as relatable as possible. Even when it is a new concept, he tries to find a life experience or acquire information that can be applied to the problem at hand.

Jorge Katawala and student at whiteboard

“These grade levels and age brackets are the most crucial when it comes to formative years,” he said. “The adolescents learn or adapt to a plethora of circumstances that molds their world view and, depending on who can influence them, will determine how they become responsible citizens.” 

Lifelong Learner

In 1993, prior to migrating to the United States, Katawala earned a bachelor’s degree in international relations and diplomacy at Instituto de Relações Internacionais (which later became Universidade Joaquim Chissano) in his native country of Mozambique in Africa.

“When I was in college, I lived in an urban center that was overpopulated, and there was a scarcity of qualified teachers,” he said. “The government decided to extend recruitment to colleges to enhance their staffing, and I ended up teaching history and geography to secondary school students.”

A lifelong learner, Katawala later earned a post-graduate diploma in Development Studies at Kimmage Manor Development Studies Centre in Dublin, Ireland.

In addition to that initial experience as a teacher in Mozambique, Katawala believes his exposure to a wide range of educational settings in Metro Schools while providing two-way interpretation services between families and educators, from exceptional education to general ed curriculum, powered a journey that culminated with a teaching offer at MNPS. This exposure, along with an invitation to apply for a teaching-preparation program through the Nashville Teacher Residency, a one-year program with classroom residency while studying relevant fields for licensure, gave him a great opportunity.

He said he wanted to be a classroom teacher because he “wanted to facilitate access to content to students that would otherwise be limited or discouraged to pursue further education due to language barriers.”

Katawala also loves the arts and enjoys spending his free time playing music and writing.

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