Honoring Mario Benabe

Mario B photo

Mario Benabe

High School Math Teacher  

Bronx, NY

Mario Benabe is the founding Math Teacher at the South Bronx Community Charter High School (SBCCHS), a school birthed out of the New York City’s Young Men’s Initiative (YMI) and the Expanded Success Initiative (ESI) School Design Fellowship. Prior to teaching at SBCCHS, Mr. Benabe spent two years as the Special Education, Mathematics Specialist at the Bronx River High School. Mr. Benabe holds a M.S.T in Special Education from Fordham University and a B.A. in Culture and Deviance Studies with cross disciplinary research training in Sociology and Latin America and Latinx Studies from John Jay College of Criminal Justice.

Throughout his early teaching career, Mr. Benabe has advocated for educational justice for youths of color. At Teach For America’s 25th anniversary summit Mr. Benabe spoke at the #StayWoke: Stop the Violence and Increase Opportunity program to an audience of over 1,200 people at the Walter E. Washington convention Center in D.C.. In 2015, The Entertainment Industry Foundation honored Mr. Benabe as one of three teachers selected nationally to be recognized as the 9/11 Day Teacher. Mr. Benabe has received the Robert Bob Douglass Hall of Fame – John Hunter Community Service Award for his dedication in serving youths through education for the National Association of  Each One Teach One program.

Mr. Benabe is the initiator of “Do-The-Right-Thing Pedagogy”, which frames the importance of examining the ways in which teaching and learning occurs in afrocentric and indigenous populations and using that as a Dialectical Opposites [Do] To Heal Education [The] that invites Reality, Immersion, Good-Hearted Teaching [Right] Through Historical Indigenous/Afrocentric and Native Grounds [Thing]. His role as an educator is to create conditions that allow young people to express their brilliance through their sense of what is vernacular for them so that they  can feel valued within the village of teaching and learning

Why do you Teach?

I teach as a response to a very powerful age-old adage that describes, “if the youth are not initiated to the tribe, they will burn it down in order to feel its warmth”. Often times because of our marriage to ineffective pedagogy, it creates conditions that allow young people to feel as though they are not deeply connected to the village of teaching and learning. I teach because it puts me in a position to heal and create conditions that never run counter to the spirit of young people. I teach because I understand that broken pedagogy cannot teach young people to be whole. Therefore, my work requires me to invest my efforts as an ally to the village of learners, to cultivate a teaching and learning context that is emancipatory, that invest in young people’s perception of self-worth and that builds a pedagogy of joy.

What do you love about teaching?

Prior to teaching I often guided myself to think critically about what brings out my inner peace? I felt this fear that was birthed out of a pain that maybe came from the gospel, that said, “there are many who die but do not rest in peace”. Even with all the roads in place, I stood at the border of  each pathway of opportunity thinking about why is it that life hasn’t allowed for me to fully crossover into my inner peace? It wasn’t until that special moment when I walked into a classroom as an educator for the first time where I felt like I could finally anchor my spirit, define my purpose in life, create a sustainable me, bring out my inner peace and guide young people to an education that is beyond a set of standards. I love teaching and learning because it has allowed for me to teach within a village of learners that celebrates our existing shared cultural capital as a result of me being Latino, having shared history and common experiences, speaking the same languages, and teaching within my direct community in the South Bronx, NY at the South Bronx Community Charter High School, so that when we exchange through transactions within dialogue, authenticity within the relationships shines through.

When you were a student, was there a great teacher who inspired you?

Absolutely! In 7th grade, back in 2002, I was blessed with having a math and science teacher who is now one of the nation’s most inspiring educators, Dr. Christopher Emdin. His work on #HipHopEd, Science Genius and Reality Pedagogy is at the intersections of critical pedagogy and culturally relevant pedagogy. I can’t imagine my world without the inspiration he fills within my vessel of passion for teaching and learning. If I could relive any moment within my life repeatedly, it would be that year when I walked into his class. I speak from the deepest parts of my heart with joy and a sense of caring about the value I have for him for guiding me to see that everything that is out there is already within me. I know that when I was most lost in life, he gave me direction. I am forever thankful for him, and his family.