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Back to School: Walking This Path Together

TFA San Antonio Executive Director Nick Garcia shares his thoughts as a new school year begins amid a pandemic and a powerful movement for racial reckoning.

By Nick Garcia

August 27, 2020

With classes starting this week, I have been thinking deeply about our 100 corps members and 300 alumni who work on campuses or in district offices in San Antonio. Classroom teachers, administrators, counselors, school board members—each of you carry an additional weight this school year.

There is so much fear, uncertainty, and questions: Will I be safe reporting for work? Will my students and their families be safe? Even with my best efforts, will I be an effective teacher/school leader/counselor in an all virtual or hybrid model? How can I use my platform to advance racial and educational justice with my students?

The powerful movement for racial reckoning in our country this summer has called TFA to deepen our commitment to diversity, equity and inclusiveness. I recognize that while we have made significant strides towards equity in the 15 years that I have been a part of TFA, we have fallen short of always being the inclusive, welcoming, and just organization that we aspire to be.

If you have not done so already, I encourage you to review the ways in which our organization has listened and is striving to improve. Our CEO Elisa Villanueva Beard shared our commitments in a message last week.

We have also deepened our commitment to the tenets of culturally sustaining pedagogy and, over our summer virtual teacher training (formerly summer institute), we oriented corps members to classroom leadership through the lens of anti-racism. We are working hard to provide content to our corps and our alumni to ensure that you have access to resources as you aspire to be an anti-racist educator. 

At our corps member orientation a few weeks ago, I was inspired by a seminar provided by alumna Damaris Gutierez, a 10-year educator who shared her journey and insights as she works toward educational justice for refugee populations. In her presentation, she shared several resources (we’ve captured a few here and you can view her entire presentation here), but what stuck the most for me was this: “Aspiring to be an anti-racist educator is a journey. It is not a destination… So you must decide how you will show up today, tomorrow and always.”

I wish I had more to offer each of you about the pandemic. It has been incredibly challenging professionally, but even more so personally. My twins were starting school for the first time last year, as they entered kindergarten in San Antonio Independent School District (SAISD). With the resignation of their teacher in October, a long-term sub through December, and the pandemic in March, it has been a very difficult year both academically and socially. The loss of momentum was and remains hard.

I see my family's education story echoed by the thousands, but I also see how the difficulty of the situation is compounded for many families by the loss of jobs and the tragic loss of life due to COVID-19.

While none of us has certainty on the path forward, know that you are not alone as you head into this school year. If we can be a resource, connector, or sounding board, our staff and network at TFA are here to support you in any way that we can.

I believe in your ability to walk the path alongside me, our students, and our beloved community. I believe in your profound capacity to love and lead. I believe that our students are the transformative force for tomorrow and that you, alongside their families, are their keepers—which means you are the change agents of today.

Knowing that you will be there to show up—in-person, over Zoom, and through messaging apps—gives me tremendous hope for the future of my children and all of our children.

Thank you for your continued dedication to our mission. Thank you for continually calling on us as an organization to be and do better. Thank you for walking this path together.

In Lak’ech,