Last month, as families across Louisiana came together to give thanks, one group made the top of my list of things to be grateful for: the 84 ninth-graders in my classroom every day. As I work to instill a love of science in these students, they have taught me more than I ever thought I’d know about perseverance, hard work and the remarkable potential of the children on whom our state’s future depends.
I first came to the classroom as a Teach For America corps member in 2005. Born and raised in Baton Rouge, I graduated from LSU committed to give back to the state and public education system in which I’d grown up. I spent my first three years teaching chemistry and physics to 10th- and 11th-graders at Scotlandville High School. As any new teacher understands, they were among the most challenging and most rewarding years of my life. Together, my students and I made great strides in those first few years — both in the classroom and as individuals. Now, halfway through a fifth year as an educator, I know I will spend my career doing this difficult, inspiring, and critical work.
Without Teach For America, I would likely never have discovered my love for teaching and the teenagers who top my list of blessings this holiday season. Growing up, I expected to follow in my father’s footsteps, to build a career as an architect doing the work I’d watched him find so rewarding for so many years. But having now seen both worlds, I know that the one I share with my students is the place for me. I am grateful for them, for the colleagues who inspire me, and for a path to them I might never have found without the support of Teach For America.
Teach For America introduced me to the classroom — and to so many other committed educators including my fiancée, a fellow corps member also committed to public education in Louisiana for the long term. As we build our own family here in Baton Rouge, we are excited to join with fellow educators making students their top priority. Each day, our kids show us the remarkable things they can do. Now, we must come together to show them that we adults can exceed expectations too — that we can set aside the issues that divide us and come together to deliver the excellent public education our students so deeply deserve.