Second-generation corps members are Teach For America teachers who were once taught by a Teach for America teacher themselves. In the 2013 corps there are approximately 120 of them, and each year this number will continue to grow. While there are many unique factors that led these 120 new teachers joining the classroom, a few specifically point to their relationship with a Teach For America teacher as their inspiration for their new careers in education.
At the time, the teachers may not have known the difference they were making in their students, but years later, we tracked them down to share stories from their former students.
Now we want to share three of those stories with you.
Dashawna Fussell-Ware (Miami-Dade, 2013) walked into John Moore’s (Miami-Dade, 2005) AP U.S. History class and had one thought: He’s white.
“At first he rubbed me the wrong way,” said Dashawna. “Who is this white man, talking about his classroom rules?”
Dashawna’s impression changed though. She realized John cared about her.
“Because of John’s encouragement, I became more invested in myself,” said Dashawna.
John, who taught Dashawna in his third year of teaching, and is now a lawyer in Seattle, Wash., didn’t always know he was making that kind of impact on his students. Some days were more difficult than others, but he knew he always had to keep moving forward.
“There were times, especially early on, when I lost control of the classroom, and of my own anger. It was emotional. When I got my quizzes back, and half or maybe all didn’t get something that I thought I’d carried across, I’d think, ‘Gosh, today was a waste of time,” said John.
Dashawna doesn’t remember those days though. She remembers the relationship John built with her, and the confidence he gave her.
“I remember at the end of the year, he said ‘Shawna remembers everything. She just spits out facts and knowledge.’ I’ve carried that forever. It made me think: I’m a genius. It started in that moment and I carried it through institute. It gave me so much confidence in myself,” said Dashawna.
Having the rare chance to hear that from a student almost brings a tear to John's eye. It's a unique affirmation that not even John's friends and family could provide while he was in the corps."
“Did I hear from other teachers or family members when I was down? Yeah, they encouraged me and would say I’m making a difference, but I would get sick of hearing that. To hear what she said, many years later, it makes me really glad. It makes me feel really good about my time there.”
Jorge Galan's (Houston, 2013) first impression of Marc Ybarsabal (Houston, 2005) was that he meant business and he was very stubborn about homework. Over time, Jorge learned this stemmed from Marc’shigh expectations for him.
“Out of all my teachers, he worked the hardest,” said Jorge. “He was the only teacher to come every Saturday morning to help us, and he brought snacks. Things really clicked for me with him. He went above and beyond the call.”
At times, Marc, an eight-year teaching veteran who taught Jorge in his second year as a teacher and is now an analytics manager at YES! Prep Public Schools in Houston, Texas, felt insecure about his teaching. “I’m pretty sure I’ve thought—am I making a difference?—every single year that I’ve taught. I definitely struggled with it more in the beginning.”
Marc did made a difference in Jorge’s life, even though Marc didn’t know it at the time.
“I teach now because Marc fought for me,” said Jorge. “His expectation was we were all going to college.
Not a lot of people went to college or community college.”
When asked about his goals for his year in the classroom, Jorge said, “ When I’m teaching this year, let me think of my favorite teacher, let me embody that.”
Those words remind Marc to not be so hard on himself. "You latch on to the things that gave you trouble and the students whose lives you didn’t feel you touched." But that doesn't mean he's letting go of his high expectations—or his tough-teacher persona. "If I had any feelings, I’d probably be crying,” he joked.
Ketica Guter (Las Vegas Valley, 2006) had a distinct first impression Aimée Eubanks Davis’ (New Orleans, 1995) English and Language Arts and Social Studies class: “Wow, this young lady who looks like me is pretty cool, and she graduated college.”
Ketica said she and her classmates marveled at the way Aimée spoke. “We were fascinated by her diction and elocution of the English language.”
Ketica was in Aimée’s first classroom, a difficult year for any teacher, including Aimée, who is now Teach For America’s Executive Vice President of Public Affairs and Communications.Every day, Aimée said she struggled with feeling like she wasn’t making a difference.
“Last summer I had the opportunity to give the closing address at the Chicago Institute. I talked a lot about how inadequate I felt coming out of that first year. But early on, somebody did say to me, ‘You have a relationship with kids that is going to propel them forward and propel you forward in your teaching,” said Aimée.“It’s about loving kids and having the courage to push through when you’re not doing great.”
Aimée continues her relationship with Ketica to this day. Ketica attended Aimée’s wedding, while Aimée watched Ketica graduate from Northwestern University.
“I wanted to do TFA to pay it forward because this person in my life, who had done so much for me, had done this program,” said Ketica.
Ketica now teaches high school on the southside of Chicago, in the very neighborhood in which Aimée grew up.
“Aimée influences me every day as a teacher. She reminds me that we don't always realize the length of our reach as teachers,” said Ketica. “The fact that we have had this relationship for 17 years reminds me my impact extends beyond the 7:45 to 4:45 school day, it makes me mindful of the privilege I have as an educator, that I can and will make a lifelong impact on students.
Hearing that is a “tear-jerking” moment for Aimée, “I would have never known in 500 million years that I would have that type of long-term impact, especially because I was struggling every day in my classroom.”