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Teaching Is Believing

Justin Borroto (DC Region ‘16) is a geometry teacher at Ballou High School in Washington, DC. He shows that providing a great education is about believing in your students and all they can achieve.

Teaching Is Believing

By The TFA Editorial Team

July 9, 2018

Can you give us a quick background of yourself?

My name is Justin Borroto and I'm a 2016 corps member teaching Geometry at Ballou High School. I'm originally from Miami, Florida and am a proud graduate of the University of Miami (Go Canes!). Before I joined the corps, I served as an Americorps Member and Team Leader with City Year Washington DC at Ketcham Elementary School. In my experience with City Year I found my true passion in teaching and a love for the students in DC's schools.

How has your opinion of education evolved since you’ve been in the classroom?

My experience in the classroom has given me the understanding that education reform means looking at all areas at once. Each issue is so intertwined with the next that in order to truly create an equitable education system, you can't look at it from a singular issue or point of view.

Justin Borroto 1

How has being part of TFA affected your future, your plans or your personal goals?

I knew coming into TFA that I wanted to plan my future around being involved in education, but I wasn't sure in what capacity. I feel really strongly about the fact that all education policy should be grounded in real teaching experience. I want to take my time in the classroom to spaces where policy decisions are being made and I would like to be an advocate for getting more policymakers into our schools and inside classrooms.

What would your ideal classroom look like in 2030?

My ideal classroom would be one where teachers take more of a counselor/facilitator role instead of simply being an instructor. Students would meet regularly with their teachers to check-in on their progress, life goals, and whether or not this curriculum is important and meaningful to who they want to be in the future. I would also hope in 2030 that in any classroom, all students are being affirmed and loved and valued for all aspects of their identity (race, sexuality, gender identity and expression) and that students are also affirming their peers in the same way. Finally, I would love to see classrooms where educators realized that special education is simply good teaching. Every student learns differently, and there is no "one size fits all" or "general" way of teaching kids. As educators, we need to do the work to meet every kid where they're at and see their learning styles as special and important and unique.

Justin Borroto

By the last day of school, how do you want your students to have changed or grown?

My biggest thing all year has just been wanting my students to believe in themselves and their academic potential. So many of my kids came into this year with a fixed mindset that, "I'm just not good at math". In many cases, that was simply not true and in other cases it should have been more of a "I'm not good at math....yet". I want my students to know that they are good at math and they are capable of learning and mastering anything that they put their minds to.

What stories or memories from teaching in the classroom make you smile?

My favorite teaching stories come from some of the smallest moments. I always smile when I hear students make comments that show me they are truly confident in what they are doing, when I can sit back and see students helping each other and talking about math in a productive way. I will always cherish the conversations I have with my kids and that they have with each other. Our youth have such a beautiful point of view about the world and I always learn something new from them.

What makes you a great teacher?

I think students know that I am consistent and that I am fair. I am nowhere near perfect, but I think at this point students can rely on the fact that I'm going to be at work every day and prepared to deliver rigorous content and challenge their thinking. When students are given high expectations consistently, they will rise to those expectations every time. And even if things don't go exactly as I plan or want them to the first time, they know that my "tough love" comes from fairness and a belief in their capacity to succeed.

Justin Borroto