I always wanted to teach. When I was younger, I used to create fake homework for my brothers as I ushered them to the school I had created. After high school, my journey began at Norfolk State University, and I then transferred back home to Pittsburgh to Robert Morris University. Shortly thereafter, I had my daughter and my teaching certification took a backseat for a bit. In 2013 I was living in Maryland, and I was accepted into the residency program affiliated with Prince George County Public Schools. In August of 2013, I began to teach at Oxon Hill High School. The students were incredible and this experience marked the beginning of my educator adventure.
I always envisioned myself as a high school educator. During my time at Oxon Hill, I was able to spend all four years with my students. I was the class sponsor and taught 9th grade English, 11th grade English and AP Language and Composition. I loved learning about my students and having them learn about me. I remember one of my students would bring me tea in the mornings and once my scholars found out I loved red starbursts, I received a lot of starburst deliveries. Inside the classroom, I cherished the moments when my scholars began to embrace the content I was teaching them.
In 2018, I decided to move back to Pittsburgh to become closer to family since my daughter was growing older. After substituting for a bit, I landed at Propel and have been there ever since. I am currently a middle school educator. At first, I found middle school to be a huge adjustment from high school. In middle school, students wish to be independent but are still in need of guidance. However, I have really come to enjoy the experience. This year will be very special because I will be teaching the same cohort I had in 6th grade.
I had an amazing mentor during my time in Maryland. She was an instructional specialist, and she helped to guide and mold my practice through encouragement. We still keep in touch today. During our time together, we spearheaded a few programs. We took 19 students to London in 2016 over Spring Break and built a curriculum that gave the opportunity for students to learn photography, culinary skills, writing and more during their travels.
Throughout my experience, I have seen a lot, and the journey certainly has not been easy. In Maryland, it wasn’t so much systemic inequities as it was watching teachers lower the bar for their students. For example, within the credit recovery program that existed, every scholar had to achieve an 80% passing rate. When the county took over the program, this soon was altered and the passing rate became 60%. This idea of lowering the bar in order to see our scholars achieve is something I have seen time and time again.
From K-8 we tend to follow this idea that if a student fails every class, we should still promote them because socially, it would be a detriment to hold them back. Unfortunately, students who are passed along fall farther behind as time goes on. Unfortunately, understaffed schools are unable to give the students what they need in order to succeed. Some of my 8th graders are not quite ready for high school, and this makes me uneasy. Excellent leadership is certainly needed in order to retain teachers, support teachers and ensure students are getting what they need and everyone is held accountable.
I always thought that I would remain in the classroom forever. However, I have realized that some changes are truly hard to make while remaining within the classroom. I hope to pursue a principal’s certificate program through Point Park University. I realize that making this change will not be easy, but I hope to make the necessary changes needed to allow everyone to thrive within the school environment. In addition, I hope to grow as a leader.
Teachers are human beings and burnout is real. Oftentimes, we need to be told that we are appreciated. When it comes to managing students, I don’t always feel like we have the support we need. Students need to be held accountable for their actions while also changing their behaviors to move forward in a positive way. Building strong relationships between staff and students is essential. COVID certainly played a big part in hindering the community and rebuilding this continues to take time.
I have learned to become more understanding and empathetic. Working with students my daughter’s age has also made me a better mom. Unfortunately, I have seen a change in myself over the past few years, and I don’t think I am as patient as I used to be. I often become frustrated by new policies that are implemented that simply don’t make sense.
I have also learned to not assume what students know or do not know. When I am planning for instruction, I must put myself in the students’ shoes and think about the perspectives they have coming into the classroom. I have also noticed huge gaps in simple fundamentals. The curriculum we use does not always match student interests, motivations and skills. There is also a lack of equity in terms of support. Many of my students going into high school will need accommodations and modifications and there simply are not enough special education teachers to go around. In many ways, this is disheartening.
For my scholars, I hope they find themselves, find what they are passionate about and be confident in doing so. I have taught so many students over the years and many of them are now grown adults who are dancers and lawyers and have families of their own. Education is a catalyst to finding happiness. My hope is always for my students to become successful and well-rounded citizens.
For myself, I want to continue to make a difference whether I find myself as a principal or a teacher or an after school coordinator. I hope to continue to grow in my practice as the world continues to change and the students continue to change, too.