Profiles in Resilience: Committed to Compassion
June 14, 2021
In what has been the hardest year in recent memory, Teach For America Colorado's teachers are showing up stronger than ever to support our state's most underserved students. We're telling their stories — see below for Cassie's and take a look at more Profiles in Resilience.
TFA high school algebra teacher Cassie Ambler (Colorado '20) feels pretty lucky to be a teacher right now. Despite being unable to hold class in-person at her school (KIPP Denver Collegiate High School), Cassie’s experience getting to know her students during the pandemic has been incredibly unique and profound.
“For so many of my students, I don't know what they look like or sound like,” she says. “But they chat with me and we text, so I get to know them on an individual level completely separate from ever having seen them in real life. And I still love them so much.”
Remote and virtual learning has highlighted major disparities for families with limited access to the internet and technology. Cassie says her students regularly experience these problems, and she wants to do everything she can to help them succeed despite these inequities.
“That gap in our district is so much bigger of a problem than in wealthy districts nearby,” Cassie says. “I’m trying to address it with as much compassion as possible.”
At first, Cassie wondered how she’d integrate the current events of the world in a math curriculum, but she ultimately found that it’s happened quite naturally. She says the connections she makes with her students are about helping them deal with real-world issues and preparing them for life beyond high school.
“Working with the students gives me joy and hope in a way that nothing I've ever done does. I’ve been through a lot this year in my personal life. And on my worst days, even if getting out of bed is the hardest thing in the world, that connection with my students feels so whole. It makes me so happy.”
Setting Students Up for Success
Cassie’s life plan from second grade on was to become a teacher. But as the first in her family to pursue a degree in higher education, Cassie’s family encouraged her to attend business school to consider more lucrative career paths.
Cassie says being the first to attend college was initially pretty lonely.
“Other people are getting care packages and my parents were like, ‘All right, good luck.’ And it wasn't that they didn't care, but they didn't know what I was going to need to succeed in that environment,” she recalls.
But the experience gave Cassie insight into what kind of support her students need when they feel like they don't belong in education.
“To me the most important thing in my classroom above content knowledge is making sure they understand that they do belong. They can succeed, and there’s support out there, ” Cassie says.
Cassie wants her students to trust themselves. She hopes they feel prepared and find happiness, whatever path they choose to take. She also hopes to help others outside education realize that teaching is about so much more than standing in front of a classroom and lecturing.
“As teachers, we do so much in the interest of our youth,” she says. “It would be so awesome if society in general understood what it really means to teach.”