ESU Graduate Student Develops Lesson Plan Around Frederick Douglass

Khristy Almonte

Posted by: Elizabeth Richardson on February 14, 2024, No Comments

Frederick Douglass’ extraordinary life continues to have an impact, and an East Stroudsburg University graduate student is doing her part to ensure that his legacy lives on. Khristy Almonte, a first-year graduate student in ESU’s professional and secondary education program, developed a junior high lesson plan centered on the life and work of Douglass, who was born into slavery and became a social reformer, orator, writer, statesman and key leader in emancipation. Almonte is the graduate assistant of ESU’s Frederick Douglass Institute as well as a middle school teacher for the Diocese of Scranton. These professional experiences helped inform her lesson plan’s content so that today’s students can become more familiar with Douglass.

The Frederick Douglass Institute is a Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) initiative that intends to promote multiculturalism, foster inclusive communities, and enhance understanding and appreciation of human diversity. Dr. Laura Kieselbach, associate professor of English and ESU’s FDI executive director, approached Almonte about the graduate assistant position, but Almonte said she wanted to learn more about FDI’s namesake before accepting. “I researched Douglass and the more I learned about him, the happier I was to be a representative of him at ESU,” she said. “Dr. Kieselbach birthed the lesson plan idea—I just put it into action.”

Almonte described the lesson plan as a “write-out.” It gives background information on Douglass and his career; the students will read an excerpt from his book Life of a Slave, and watch a short documentary. Afterwards, teachers will get students’ thoughts, feelings, and opinions on what they watched and read. She and Kieselbach reached out to teachers they knew in local school districts and asked them to implement the lesson plan into their curriculum. This is the first year the information will be taught. “This really came to fruition by reaching out to teachers we already knew in the Pocono Mountain and Stroudsburg school districts,” Almonte said. “We’re mostly focusing on students in secondary education—they are starting to grasp their identities and the roles they play in society.”

Now in her third year of teaching, Almonte’s own path to becoming a teacher started at ESU as an undergraduate. She chose a school in the state system of higher education because of its reputation for graduating accomplished, experienced teachers; she chose ESU specifically because it was close to her home in Mount Pocono, Pa. After earning her undergraduate degree in English with a concentration in secondary education, she took a year off to teach, then returned to ESU to start her graduate studies.

“I always loved ESU. I’ve always been a commuter, and I love the sense of community at ESU. People come from all over—Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, and other states, as well,” Almonte said. “I like all the programs and incentives they have on campus. During my first year at ESU, it was nice to be introduced to the many events ESU holds throughout the year. The most memorable was an assignment where we walked around ESU’s campus and researched historical landmarks and what it meant for us as an institution.” She added, “I love the educational aspect of ESU. The professors are really welcoming—they impart a lot of knowledge and experience on their students. It’s nice to see a range of communities and people participating in events. It never feels like anyone is excluded.”

Almonte was drawn to teaching, but said she was unsure about which path to take in education. “I thought I’d get into administrative teaching, such as a human resources or a superintendent role. I felt like a structured role like that best suited my strengths, but as I stayed in the classroom and got to know who I was as a teacher, I find I enjoy the classroom and being with the students.” She has taught at the Diocese of Scranton for the past year and is hoping to see her lesson plan around Douglass evolve from a classroom project to something for the entire community. “The plan is to implement it around his birthday [believed to be February 14]. I’ll be taking a day this week to visit a few different schools to see how they are implementing the lesson. I’ll take some pictures and get some actual student responses. I’d love to see it become an anniversary thing, and I’d love to get more ESU students involved. I would like to see it become an annual event where people can take a few hours to learn and review Douglass’ life. I want to show people that Douglass still matters—he’s still having an impact. He was a big influence on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. I’d like to spend some time on these important figures during Black History Month.”