Over the last year, I have grown a new kind of appreciation for Teach For America. The more alumni I meet, the more I realize how much a lot of the criticism around TFA comes from a general stereotype that these new teachers will only come into the classroom, do their two years of teaching, and leave the profession. The reality, though, for most of my TFA friends and colleagues is far from that. Perhaps it is our connection to our community and the fact that we began our careers in schools with demographics similar to the ones we attended growing up that is playing a larger role often overlooked, but from my closest 10 TFA connections, all but one are still in a classroom.
To commemorate our five-year milestone, I wanted to shout out five rockstar TFA teachers to highlight their dedication and commitment to reaching “ONE DAY.” When people only focus on those who left the teaching profession shortly after TFA, they miss out on hearing about these awesome emerging educators.
Mr. Gonzalez is a rockstar teacher who now serves as the Dean at a charter school in Las Vegas that he helped built with the same team from his placement site as a TFA corps member. He leads from the heart both in and out of the classroom, and while Las Vegas was not his hometown, he has embraced his school community as a second home. His commitment and love towards his students is testament to the kind of awesome teachers we must continue to foster and embrace.
Mr. Zaw, who was my partner teacher from Institute (the summer training new TFA teachers must go through before going off to teach in their region), has demonstrated from day one a natural ability to connect and build strong relationships with students and is still kicking butt in the classroom. I am excited to know that he continues to share his sense of humor, his witty personality, and his high expectations to all his students.
Ms. Gutierrez, a spirited Kindergarten teacher who serves her students with the same genuine smile on a daily basis, is helping create a second home for her babies right in her classroom. As the product of Compton, she exemplifies the words of Kendrick, “didn’t do it for the gram [i} did it for Compton,” allowing her service to educating tiny humans to be her part in changing the world.
Ms. Rivera, a kind, sweet, equity-driven SpEd teacher who challenges perceptions around students with disabilities on an everyday basis, is proving just how powerful it is for our students to have strong-willed advocates. Through the years, she has managed to stay as committed, as engaged and as involved with her placement school, inspiring many of us to keep fighting the fight and keep being the voice for our kiddos in our own schools.
Ms. Silva is an an inspiring, chingona teacher who speaks about her students as if they were her own kids. Having the pleasure of working with her, I witnessed first-hand her commitment to uplifting Latino communities and teaching her niños/as that their power relied on their ganas. Years later, she teaches with the same passion and energy she first began her career with.
As you can see, TFA isn’t a teacher factory that places teachers in low-income communities, where teachers serve their two years and leave; the greater majority of us actually stay in the classroom past the two-year commitment and continue to demonstrate just how impactful teachers can be when they are determined to not simply be good and rather strive to be great. So THANK YOU to all the teachers who have chosen to continue to serve their communities and continue the hard work so that “One day, all children in this nation will have the opportunity to attain an excellent education.”
All of these unsung heroes are part of the teach For America Los Angeles & Las Vegas 2012 cohorts and are still in the classroom today.
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