Noelle Aiisa Berry, a former student (graduated in 2011) and Spoken Word member herself, has filled the position previously occupied by former Spoken Word assistant Mr. Robinson. A fun fact: Berry and Robinson know each other well; Berry was Robinson’s spoken word team captain and they graduated the same year.
When asked, Berry said that “It feels great (to be back). I’m honored to be able to be back here in this capacity.”
Berry says she wanted to assist in the transition between teachers, since Robinson left and current sponsor Mr. Khan is retiring at the end of the year.
“The spoken word program has just done so much for my life and i wanted to help in that transition. I’ve been working with the program after school for about five years…and my (flexible) schedule and business just allow me to come back and pour into the program and pour into the students and give back,” she said. “On a broader educational level, this program teaches students and teachers alike not only how to interact with poetry but also use poetry to tell a story, which can be very therapeutic. So it’s a program that fosters healthy community.”
Berry also notes that Spoken Word has had a great impact on her.
“Spoken word made me a better writer for starters…it definitely challenged me to be a more vocal leader…I would say Mr. Khan especially saw the leader in me…I was very very shy…(Spoken Word made me) a better performer too,” she said “On a personal level, it kept me in school…kept me out of some trouble, and provided a home. And I don’t think I would be the person I am…without having been involved in the spoken word program.”
Berry says that her favorite memory since beginning work at OPRF has “definitely (been) getting the shipment of “Respect the Mic” anthology and distributing them to English classes.” “Respect the Mic” is the decades-long compilation book of poems from OPRF students and alumni that came out this year. “(Holding the book) was like holding your baby for the first time,” she said.
Berry also runs a small business called Titan View Enterprises, an independent contract business that educates on personal finance, and also builds entrepreneurs. “I do what’s called a financial life strategy with clients…and in a sense I’m like a money doctor,” she said.
Spoken Word leader Peter Kahn says that “Noelle makes students feel comfortable and respected…and the kids love her.”
Although transitory periods between leaders can be difficult, Berry is a familiar and beloved presence in the classroom.