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A Corps Member Reflects on Her First Year of Impact as a TFA Teacher

In her first year as a Teach For America corps member, third-grade reading teacher Ms. Falilah Ibidapo earned the honor of Rookie Teacher of the Year at her school, Lenora B. Smith Elementary.

Falilah Ibidapo (Miami-Dade '18)

By Falilah Ibidapo

May 7, 2019

When I think about the impact I have made on my students this year, I look back on the little moments that took place inside and outside of my classroom that reflect the same passion I bring to my work. I think of the moments at the beginning of the year, particularly with one student named Donte. Donte came from a charter school and 3rd grade was his first time in public school. He was accustomed to a different learning environment, so the beginning of the year was rough. He was several grade levels below in reading, which meant his engagement in the lessons was minimal. Donte also had behavioral issues and did not work well with others.

Around December, Donte and I had a conversation. We highlighted his strengths and came up with strategies that would help with his academics and also his personal growth. Seeing his transformation into having a growth mindset has not only helped him engage in the reading lessons but he is more intentional with his actions and is on the path to becoming a leader among his peers. 

Overall, the greatest takeaway from my first year as a corps member is the growth mindset that I did not have when I started with Teach For America. My experiences in TFA's Summer Institute Training program, as well as in the classroom, have shown me that I have to reflect on my actions and experiences in order to grow as an individual, but also grow into a strong educator. I am grateful for those experiences because they have solidified that education is truly my passion in life. 

My mother was my first teacher, and I think about the many lessons I've learned from her that I now apply to my experience in the classroom. No matter how much I tried to do my own thing, she always had patience with me. She used to always tell me to "pack my patience" and I didn't really understand the phrase until I began my journey to becoming an educator. I appreciate her for teaching me to see the positive in situations and to never judge someone solely off a single action. I've taken the numerous lessons my mother has taught me and I strive to apply them daily in my personal life and in achieving extraordinary outcomes for my kids. 


Falilah Ibidapo is a first-year Teach For America Miami-Dade corps member from Atlanta, GA. She is a recent college graduate of the University of Georgia where she majored in Early Childhood Education.

Interested in supporting teachers like Ms. Ibidapo? Learn how you can donate and get involved here. Interested in joining TFA as a future corps member? Click here.