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New Years Reflections & Celebrations: Connor Willis-Hong

We asked three of our members what they’re most proud of over the past year, and what their resolutions are for 2019. Corps member Connor Willis-Hong (Greater Chicago-Northwest Indiana ’17) shares his thoughts.

Connor Willis-Hong

December 19, 2018

What am I most proud of in the last year? What am I striving for in the next six months? I feel a kind of pressure to share a success story about a student that I have impacted in a major way or highlight a class that has shown tremendous testing growth. But progress is incremental, and doesn’t always come in neat packages. And to be completely honest, my first year-and-a-half of teaching has been the most difficult period of my life. Every day has been mushed together into a blur of exhaustion, stress, anxiety, and frustration. I worked a lot, slept a little, and chipped away at a seemingly never-ending list of things to do. 

So, you might be wondering, why is he still doing this, and why did Teach For America ask him of all people to write? The answer to those two questions is fairly simple. The challenges that I have encountered during my time in Teach For America are ant hills compared to the mountains of diverse challenges that our students face on a daily basis. Some of the things that my students have confided in me are inconceivable to anyone who is not from the communities that we serve. They have seen and experienced things that nobody should ever have to experience, let alone teenagers. 

But every day, my students show up to school. And every day, I learn something new from them. Whether it is a simpler way to explain some concept or when Sidy and Kariel stay after school to get extra SAT tutoring, they never fail to impress me with their enthusiasm, creativity, and diligence. And I could not be more proud of my students for each of these things. 

I know that I still have a lot to learn to become the teacher my students need me to be, but I am going to be there for them every day until then. No matter how many things I have to do or how tired I am, I will be there for my kids because I believe in their infinite potential. So, my resolution for 2019 is to continue to be the best educator possible for my students—to continue to push myself, and to continue to push them. If they can make it to school despite all the obstacles they face, then I will do everything in my power to give them the education that they deserve.