Gabby Mbeki, 29, teaches fifth grade at Buckingham Browne & Nichols and balances her limited time during the school year with writing, hosting at the Hawthorne, and snapping style shots for her Instagram (@firstandwarren) and blog, First and Warren.
Q. What made you become a teacher?
A. I went to Northeastern and I originally wanted to do PR. I remember my very first communications class, and it being packed with no available chairs. I thought OK, so maybe not this, and picked up some business classes because I decided I wanted to do real estate instead. I worked with Coldwell Banker in college and got my license to be a real estate agent, but it was the three years during the recession and I felt like I was doing a lot more desk work than showing houses. I didn’t think it was something I could do for the rest of my life.
But as an English major, I took a class called Multicultural Children’s Literature that met at night because the teacher was also a teacher in Chinatown. As part of the class you would go and read aloud to her class, and I got so much more out of that one time of being there than I did in three years of real estate. I went right into the grad program for teaching after that.
Q. What do you have the kids reading now?
A. Our class is doing a read aloud of Cece Bell’s “El Deafo.” Then there’s another great one called “Sunny Side Up” by Jennifer L. Holm. It has a discussion about the character’s brother ending up on the wrong side of the tracks. Doing it in a graphic novel is really interesting in that age group and it’s a really nice way to have those serious conversations at an appropriate level.
Q. What are you reading?
A. I’m reading Mindy Kaling’s new book, and I’m really into mysteries right now. Right now I’m listening to Agatha Christie’s “Murder on the Orient Express” on Audible.
Q. What made you get into fashion?
A. I went to a private school when I was younger, and being a person of color in the realm of private school, fashion was interesting to me. Like, I remember when everyone was wearing a North Face in high school, I wanted one, too. I really paid attention to what people were wearing for years to fit in, even though part of college, but in time, I was able to embrace my own identity in part through creating my own style.
Q. Do your students follow you online?
A. Surprisingly, no. They’re a lot more in tune with the concept of teacher privacy. I haven’t had any kids ask me if they could follow me or seen any of them pop up on my Instagram. I also think it’s when my account was private, they didn’t ask because they didn’t want to seem intrusive, but now that I’m out there in the public, they know it’s just not as fun.Rachel Raczka can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.