The two LVV '17s who went to rival high schools in Las Vegas and are now doing the corps together.
December 19, 2017
#6DegreesofLVV aims to capture the personal stories of corps members and alumni currently serving in Las Vegas. The person featured in each story connects to the person prior in a number of different ways. Both individually and collectively, these unique stories will show you a new side of Las Vegas education.
Best friends TJ Mertikas and Alec Noggle joined the corps together in 2017 after graduating from University of Nevada – Reno. Both Las Vegas natives, TJ and Alec came back to their hometown to make an impact for students in Clark County School District.
TJ – “Alec and I actually went to rival high schools. I went to Coronado and he went to Palo Verde, and we competed against each other in debate tournaments. We ended up living down the hall from one another at the University of Nevada – Reno.”
Alec – “Yeah TJ actually came into my dorm and I said, ‘this is a Palo room, sorry.’ Eventually I got over the rivalry, and we ended up becoming close friends.”
TJ – “Definitely. When it came time for senior year, I decided to apply to Teach For America. For me it was about coming back to my hometown and taking the privilege I had going to great schools in CCSD and making sure all students got a great education.
Alec – “I applied at the very last deadline. I don’t want it to sound like I just did this to copy TJ. I had a teacher I really admired in high school. He had previously worked in government and banking, and teaching was his second career. I always thought I might do something like him, where I had a career and came back to teach when I retired. However, when I was getting ready to graduate, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, and it made sense for me to teach now. I just flipped the career order and I’m glad I did.”
TJ – “Out of all of the people I knew, Alec exhibited the qualities that would make him an effective teacher. Alec was one of the smarter classmates/friends I had. We had a lot of classes in college together and always worked together. I thought he was capable of doing it, and I knew that his older brother also did Teach For America in Denver.”
Alec – “It’s good to know that if I ever have a bad day, I can text TJ and know he's going through the same things. Educational inequity--or the fact that not all students have access to the same opportunities--is a huge problem in our city, state, and country. Being around so many people that are working together and doing something to stop it is really cool. There's no way I'd be successful if I was doing this by myself. But because there are so many like-minded people in this community, I definitely feel like I’m making a difference.”
TJ – “Yeah it’s definitely hard. Literally every single day is difficult. But the work we do is urgent and that pushes me every day.”
Alec – “Definitely. My students are depending on me to be there and be at my best every single day. On the hard days that’s what keeps me going. On the better days, my kids are really funny, and it's always rewarding helping them learn.”
TJ – “It really is the people that give me hope though. I think without support from people at my school and through Teach For America, I might have lasted up to Thursday of the first week. Kidding, but seriously I’ve had people text me to remind me of my goals for myself and my students when it is one of those tough days, and that gives me hope. Also like Alec said, my kids are amazing. They’re really into asking me about how college is, probably because they know I just finished up. I’m able to give them the perspective of someone that grew up here and went to college here, and show them they can follow the same trajectory at least based on geographical location. There’s something here and there’s opportunity here for people who want to stay in this state.”
Alec – “I completely agree, and can’t wait to keep working to show my kids that.”
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