Why did you become a teacher?
I always say that I didn’t choose teaching, rather teaching chose me. From a young age I knew that I belonged in education. I enjoyed teaching my siblings, and I also enjoyed tutoring peers who were struggling academically.
Why did you choose to apply for teachNOLA?
I randomly saw a teachNOLA ad on Instagram. I had attained a Bachelor’s degree in psychology, and I was looking for a master’s program to matriculate into. I suddenly became inquisitive and clicked on the ad, which brought me to teachNOLA’s website. To say I was astonished by what I beheld is an understatement. From reading the mission to seeing the stories about educators who had gone through the rigorous program and found success, I knew I had to apply. I wanted to become a part of the program to make a tremendous impact as an educator.
What was your pre-service training experience like, and how did it prepare you for the classroom?
Pre-service training (PST) was extremely rigorous, rewarding, and preparatory. The demands of PST were great. I was lesson planning, making prints, lead teaching, grading, and attending afternoon sessions. All of this work was extremely taxing, however, I was named Fellow of the Week my first week in the program because I persevered and really tried to get the most out of it. My first year of teaching went significantly better than it would have if I had not gone through teachNOLA. My strong classroom management and ability to handle the demands of this profession were recognized my first year by administration. That recognition would not have been possible without teachNOLA’s rigorous and demanding nature and my willingness and eagerness to pull as much from the program as possible.
What were your first and second years in the classroom like?
My first year in the classroom started off a bit unsteady, but with the yearlong coaching that was provided by TNTP, I was able to pivot to a place that I felt comfortable as a teacher a few months into my first year. My second year of teaching felt incredible. All of the lessons that I learned from my first year in the classroom were really utilized. I can soundly say that in my second year, I truly was an effective teacher—although, I will note, the state did rate me as an effective teacher my first year due to student growth and performance.
What support from your coach was the most valuable?
teachNOLA provided all of the members of my cohort with two coaches. Both my content coach and instructional coach were magnificent. The most valuable support I received was in classroom management. I learned how to deliver effective directions, and I also learned about circulating and marking up student work. These foundational skills proved to be necessary during my first year of teaching.
What has been the most rewarding part of teaching this year?
I have expressed every single year that the most rewarding part of my job is seeing my students grow. My kids grew academically on their standardized tests, with an overall cohort growth of 26% in basic and above and 12% growth in mastery or above. And they also grew more in tune with themselves. I really enjoyed being that person who was able to help them navigate their emotions. Middle school is difficult and is a time they really start to form their own identities. I was fortunate enough to be able to model for them how to become better versions of themselves while navigating a super confusing time in their life. They saw me be authentic with them when my day wasn’t going great, apologize to them when it needed to be done, and show them the importance of being a loving and compassionate human being in a world that needs it so heavily. In turn, they began to really channel their emotions and display those same characteristics to each other, me, and other adults in the building. Seeing middle school students apologize when they were wrong, share their belongings, be empathetic, and just try to overall be a better human being made this past year a great one!
How has your work had an impact on the community?
I really enjoy being a Black man in the field of education. So many students never get to see that, and I get overwhelmed with gratitude when students smile when they meet me at orientation. Kids have audibly stated that I was their first Black man teacher and that they were happy to be in my class, and these statements really push me to be my best. I want to show these kids who look like me that there are endless possibilities for them! I want to show them that they are excellent and that in a world not built for them, they can reach heights unthought of. Students being able to see someone who went to school, pushed through so much adversity through the years (I share my childhood struggles with them), and managed to make it to a place in which I am educated and able to teach them math— that really has a profound impact on them.
Why do you think it is important to teach right now?
It is imperative to be a teacher right now because every student deserves to have an adult who will advocate for them, believe in them, and motivate them to be the most immaculate possible version of themselves. There are issues students tackle alone each and every day, and it is proven that if students have at least one adult at their school that they feel cares about them, they are statistically more inclined to perform better in school. I also believe it’s essential to note that knowledge is power. As a teacher, you are teaching these students how to not only access the information you present, but you also provide them with skills that go far beyond this. You are their model that year for how to regulate their emotions, interact with others appropriately, and form their own opinions on matters. You are, in essence, creating lifelong learners who will be able to take on a world that needs individuals who are able to form their own conclusive opinions based on facts. Much of the strife we face today as a nation is a result of individuals being misinformed or misguided.
What keeps you motivated as a teacher?
The thing that keeps me motivated as a teacher is being with my students. It might sound like a stereotypical statement, but it’s so true. I feel most fulfilled when I am in the classroom with my kids. Being able to witness a myriad of personalities day-in and day-out and being someone my kids genuinely respect is truly incredible. Every year I get kids who might start off not liking me because of the rules and structures of my class, but we truly grow to be a family in a couple of months. They know I have their backs, and I know they have mine.
What advice would you give someone who is applying to teachNOLA?
I would advise anyone considering joining teachNOLA to really make sure that they are ready for rigor. Come into the program with a mindset that is focused on growth and commitment to excellence. teachNOLA is a program that might require some acclimation for certain individuals, and that is okay! Nothing worth having comes easily, and to have the ability to utilize pedagogical practices to transform the lives of students is not something that comes without a great deal of practice. It will take a lot of work to become a truly great teacher, but teachNOLA is certainly a step in the right direction for aspiring educators. I interviewed for a teaching job right after I finished college, and I had to perform a sample lesson with no experience under my belt. I was unable to manage the room, and I also did not know how to properly prepare a lesson. The classroom’s environment felt lethargic, and students began to act up. I did not know how to handle the situation. Once I entered teachNOLA’s program, I accumulated so much knowledge! I knew upon the completion of the program that if I were to go into any space and perform a sample lesson, it’d go well because they truly prepared me!