When Ruth Betancourt (Chicago-Northwest Indiana, '18) was a high school freshman, a teacher inspired her to join TFA. Now, Ruth teaches in the same school network that shaped her into the person she is today.
December 9, 2019
Every day, I am reminded of the power of education. Nine years ago, I was sitting in my ninth grade civics class listening to my teacher talk about her journey to Teach For America. I was inspired, and told myself I too would make an impact on students’ lives, the same impact my teacher had made on my own.
That vision became a reality and now, life has come full circle. The teacher who had a significant influence in my life is now the principal of the school where I’m now teaching. I continue to embody her guidance in my work. Every day, I stand before students that wear the same uniform I once did and represent the same network of schools I attended. I stand before students that look like me, students who come from the same neighborhoods I was raised in, and have dreams no different than the ones I had at their age.
That being said, I often feel like an impostor in this work. Every August, I stand before my math students with my heart beating out of my chest. The feeling was no different this past August as I began my second year in the classroom. The impostor syndrome arose not just from my self-doubt, but from real struggles I had in my first year in the classroom. Even though we had so much in common, my students did not receive me with open arms. I had to earn their trust. And even as I began my second year, the same questions plagued me. Will my students find credibility in my work? Will they learn from me? Am I doing a disservice to my students in any way?
“I was inspired, and told myself I too would make an impact on students’ lives, the same impact my teacher had made on my own.”
The truth is, impact isn’t only possible if you share the same identity as your students. Learning alongside students, building relationships, and being passionate about ending educational inequity is what breaks down problematic power lines and discrimination. Although I’m the teacher, I learn alongside my students every day, and make sure they know I’m fighting with them against educational inequity.
Weeks away from a new year, I am reminded of my purpose. I choose to stay in the classroom because of my students, and the impact I hope to make on their lives. This makes the everyday struggles I face in this profession worth it. I recently received a note of gratitude which stated, “Ms. Betancourt, I am grateful for you.” I choose to stay in the classroom because of my students and the impact I hope to continue to make in their lives. I want to inspire them to be leaders in their communities and carry on this fight.
So now, I am walking into 2020 fighting. As my first semester as a second-year educator culminates, I feel even more committed to the mission of Teach For America, to the classrooms that I have intended to lead since the age of 14. This is where I was meant to be.