Atlanta Public Schools recently selected first-year Teach For America – Metro Atlanta corps member Raioni Madison to serve as a Science Ambassador this summer. The Impact Blog conducted a Q and A interview with her below.
September 23, 2019
IB: This summer, you will serve as an Atlanta Public Schools Science Ambassador. What is that program? How were your selected? What do you hope to contribute? What do you hope to learn?
Madison: The APS Science Ambassador position came as a recommendation from my school-based mentor. It is a program that allows teachers to work as a collective to share ideas to improve science instruction across the district. Candidates are selected based on positive impact on student achievement, strong content knowledge in science and excellent communication. Additionally, I was recommended based on my ability to guide others in professional development activities, along with the aforementioned skills. This summer, we will be working to create science units aligned with the Georgia Standards of Excellence, lead professional development sessions, and facilitate school-based professional learning opportunities.
IB: You lead a STEM Program at your school. Why did you do that? What have been the outcomes so far?
Madison: About five years ago, I started a 501c3 organization called, 3D Girls, Inc. Our mission is to enrich the lives and cultural experiences of girls through effective mentoring. Through our L.E.A.G.U.E. (Ladies Empowering Adolescent Girls Using Exposure) Model, we provide mentors to girls from various professional fields. It was very important to me to expose the girls at my school to women pursuing careers in STEM. With the low percentages of women in the STEM workforce, I felt compelled to recruit young women from Spelman College, majoring in subjects like math, engineering, and the sciences, to motivate the girls. The mentors come twice a week to work with the girls one-on-one with math and science. They absolutely love it! It has been a pleasure to bring the program to the girls because the relationships that they have created with the mentors have helped to build their confidence in subjects that they once shied away from.
IB: You recently took a group to Florida for an educational trip. Tell us about that.
Madison: I work with an organization called TGI Tech, to facilitate a STEM curriculum developed by the YWCA. On Friday, February 3, 2017, four girls participating in TGI (Teen Girls In) Technology Program had an opportunity of a lifetime to visit Daytona Beach, Florida, to visit Bethune-Cookman University and Cape Canaveral to the Kennedy Space Center. On Friday, the girls enjoyed a cool bus ride and leadership development activities from YWCA Facilitators. Upon arriving, the girls were able to visit Bethune-Cookman; learning about its rich culture and history. Special moments included: dancing on the yard with Greek organizations, Q&A with college ambassadors, and visiting the gravesite of Mary McCleod Bethune. Evening activities included fun on the beach, shopping at the mall and dinner with friends.
On Saturday, the girls explored the Kennedy Space Center. The girls enjoyed a full-ride simulator that allowed them to feel like they were astronauts in space. The Nature Preserve exhibit was a big hit, as the girls were able to connect lessons that they have been learning in my science class this semester about biomes and ecosystems. On the way home, the girls enjoyed another leadership development session that helped to motivate them to begin making their dreams come true – starting now.
IB: Describe your first year in the corps? What are you excited about heading into your second year?
Madison: After applying to TFA several times and finally getting in, I didn't think it would be all that I imagined. It has actually turned out to be more than I imagined and I am grateful. The first year in the corps was really tough. I've had to remaster life as a single mom of two daughters, meeting deadlines, and balancing learning new content. Just when I thought I was getting the hang of things, something else would come along and I would have to learn or adapt to something different. There were many late nights and early mornings but I wouldn't change it! It has definitely been an opportunity to grow my strengths of communication, organization, and time management. I am excited about my second year of teaching because I now know what to expect. Every day is not a good day but there are moments when you look up and see the excitement in a child's eyes because they 'get it' or they've discovered something new–those are the moments that keep you propelling forward.
IB: Anything else you would like our readers to know?
Madison: Because of my experience in youth development and nonprofit management, I have been able to use my community-based resources to bring opportunities to my students inside of the classroom. In addition to all of the external resources that I have been able to secure, I also received a Donors Choose Grant of $2,000 last semester, to purchase content-specific literature and materials to conduct lab activities in class. I was so surprised to find that students were not accustomed to projects and experiments. Using beakers, goggles, and microscopes were something that they only saw on TV. They didn't know that it could be real for them! I believe that exposure is one of the biggest factors for motivating students. Once they'd been exposed to the materials, then I knew that I wanted to create a more hands-on, personal experience to enhance their learning.