Skip to main content

From the Beginning: Corps Members Share Their First Year of Service

An interview with Citlalli Celis (Idaho ‘21)

A teacher wearing a checkered blazer

September 30, 2021

Over the course of this school year, Teach for America Idaho will feature several interviews with three entering corps members, to track in real time how their experience is progressing as they begin their teaching careers.

The first interview took place shortly before the school year started, and focuses on the corps members' backgrounds, their hopes and fears as they anticipate taking responsibility for a classroom filled with students for the first time.

Citlalli Celis is from Phoenix, Arizona, and graduated from Arizona State University, where she majored in family human development and sociology. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

TFA: Tell us a bit about your background and how you came to TFA Idaho.

Citlalli:  I come from a first-generation, low-income family. My parents migrated from Mexico, so there was a lot for me to navigate in school by myself and it was a whole new experience for my family.

I actually had TFA teachers throughout my middle school and secondary education in Phoenix. I wasn't really aware at the time that they were TFA, but as I grew older, I kept in touch because they were genuinely the most caring teachers and the teachers I could relate to the most.

Going into college, I knew that I wanted to work with children and in the education field, but I wasn’t exactly sure how. But I felt really passionate about helping students who reflected my own history achieve higher education.

TFA: Where will you be teaching, and what subjects and grades?

Citlalli: I will be teaching special education at East Valley Middle School in Nampa.

TFA: What are the biggest educational challenges you are hoping to address as a TFA corps member?

Citlalli: Working in special education, I want to help break the negative stigma it has. Just bringing it into a more positive light, and highlighting the strengths students have. English language learners have a lot of negative stigma put onto them, but it's not that they can't do it, it's just that language barrier. So that's definitely something I want to tackle.

I've been talking to people in Idaho who have told me that a lot of the students I’ll be working with are also first generation or low income, I definitely want to be in a position where I can relate to my students and they can relate to me.

I also care a lot about building connections with families and students. I remember the most positive interactions I had with teachers were because they were really involved with my life and my family and wanting to get to know me as a human and not just a student. I also want to foster those kinds of relationships.

TFA: What are the things you're most anxious about or worried about as you're about to enter a classroom as a teacher for the first time?

Citlalli: Recognizing my own biases that come from my experiences in the education system. Just being aware of them and being able to call myself out on them if I act on them. Mostly it’s the stereotype that students of color have more behavior issues and act out more in class.

TFA: And what are you most excited about?

Citlalli: Coming from Arizona. It's obviously a little bit different. So learning more about the community and just getting in and doing the work. It’s super important to me that I’m making sure that I create an environment where my students feel safe and that they feel cared for.