If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.
September 27, 2019
They took a chance on me.
I started off the summer of 2005 uncertain of myself and if I could really do the work of tackling one of the biggest issues facing our country—providing a quality education to all students. I had already been on multiple interviews where I kept hearing the same feedback from school leaders: you’re going to get eaten alive; this isn’t for you; you seem too sweet to handle working with these kids. In August, I interviewed with Bonner Elementary in Houston ISD. The schools leaders here approached interviewing differently. They were more interested in the leadership skills I’ve shown in the past than they were with any perfect answer I could give them for how I would teach a reading lesson. We spent the bulk of my interview talking about my time as captain of the track team at the University of Rochester, being a two sport collegiate athlete, and interning at the European Union all while working full time to put myself through college.
They took a chance on me.
By the end of my first year, every student in my class had passed the end of year state exam (up from 38 percent the year prior), and a third of them had commended status, the highest recognition for student achievement on the exam. I also founded a book club and running club, and was in the process of building a beach volleyball court so I could lead a volleyball club for upper elementary. By my fourth year teaching at Bonner, I had been nominated to be Teacher of the Year. This ultimately went to my well-deserving colleague and fellow Teach For America alumnae who started teaching with me. Together, we were part of a committee that created and led a campus innovation plan to rethink the systems within the school that would address the highest student needs. All the while, we were building relationships with our students and parents, many of whom I still hear from nearly 15 years after their child was in my class.
“We could not do this work without each of our partners. It takes continued partnership to educate our city’s children and we’re so proud to work alongside some of the most bold and innovative leaders in Houston.”
School districts that partner with Teach For America understand one thing: there is great potential in our corps members and alumni. When districts have access to our incredible corps and alumni base, it allows them the opportunity to unleash this potential in the most wild and innovative ways. They will find people wanting to work together to foster systems that support a thriving school and community. Organizations and individuals that focus on things like breaking the school-to-prison pipeline, providing wraparound services for students, ensuring students have access to affordable health care, and so much more! One thing we know to be true is that all children can learn and be successful. It is our mission to make this a reality.
Through strong partnerships with districts and the community, we believe that we can overcome any obstacle to achieving One Day for all students.
We could not do this work without each of our partners. It takes continued partnership to educate our city’s children and we’re so proud to work alongside some of the most bold and innovative leaders in Houston. In particular, we thank and appreciate the amazing work our partner districts are doing: Aldine ISD, BakerRipley Promise Community Schools, Fort Bend ISD, Houston ISD, KIPP Texas Public Schools, Klein ISD, Spring Branch ISD, and Yes Prep Public Schools.
As the African proverb states, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together."
Grace Simmons is the Managing Director of District Partnerships, Talent, and Operations at Teach For America Houston. She was a 2005 corps member who taught at Bonner Elementary in Houston ISD.