We all can remember one teacher that impacted our lives inside and outside of the classroom. Maybe it was because they brought in special snacks on your birthday or maybe it was because they spent countless hours providing you with feedback on your college admission essays during senior year. If you were fortunate like me, you remember the majority of your teachers fondly. However, we can never assume that this is the case for all students in our country. Across America children are receiving a different quality of education depending on who their teacher is, what neighborhood they live in, and what resources their school has access to. The culmination of these factors has the power to determine the future opportunities of a child. I chose to confront the educational inequities of our country by joining Teach for America (TFA) and teaching for two years in a low-income community in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Prior to the start of my teaching career I studied International Relations and minored in Education Studies at American University in Washington, DC. Due to my academic excellence, I was invited to join the American University Chapter of the National Society for Collegiate Scholars (NSCS). During my second year, I was the Vice President and gained a lot of skills in event planning and leading, both of which helped me during the selection process for TFA and continue to aid me every day in the classroom. As a Vice President of a large, campus organization I was required to maintain contact with many members; now, as a teacher I need to maintain daily contact with parents, students, and co-teachers. Additionally, as a teacher I am the leader of my classroom to not only my students but all the students of the school. I strive to help any student I see, and I always confront challenges head on. Since I am a kindergarten reading instructor, sometimes the challenge is finding new ways to help students correctly identify the letters of the alphabets and their sounds; other days the challenge can be figuring out why a student comes into my room very upset prior to the start of the day.
As a member of NSCS I was also selected as the 2011 Integrity Award Scholarship recipient. Now, more than ever, I hold the value of integrity close to my heart. Teaching is one of the most challenging tasks I have ever taken on. Some days it would be extremely easy to give every student a packet and catch up on grading or lesson plans. However, I know that a mindless worksheet or a silly game will not change the trajectory of my students’ futures. I must always do the right thing as a teacher and remember that, above all, my students, their parents, and the community are counting on me to provide a transformative education every day. If you are interested in joining Teach for America, visit their website here to learn more.
Miranda Schaeffer is an NSCS member and an American University alumni.