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Lifelong Teacher-Student Connections Made in the Classroom
When Johanna Even (Los Angeles ’92) first met Delia Acosta and her family, Delia knew very little English. Despite being born in the U.S. she, like many of her peers, came from a household where English wasn’t the first language, and by the time she entered Johanna’s first-grade classroom, she was struggling with the language. At the time, Johanna was herself struggling as a first-year corps member, trying to support a classroom of predominantly Spanish-speaking students in Los Angeles. Delia’s mother—who’d been a teacher back in Mexico—saw what was happening and stepped in as a classroom volunteer to help both daughter and teacher.
Within a year, Delia and her mother had become a second family to Johanna, even inviting her to travel with them to Nayarit, Mexico. “More than 20 years later, at Delia’s wedding, all the family I had met in Mexico greeted me again with that same warmth—calling me ‘la maestra,’” Johanna says.
Recently, Delia traveled to Chicago to celebrate the release of Empowering English Learners for Classroom Success, a book co-authored by Johanna in which she references Delia as an example what's possible for English learners when given the right mindset and support.
For Delia, today a deputy district director for the Welfare Fraud Prevention & Investigations Department in Los Angeles County, it’s been an honor to have Johanna’s support and see Johanna’s passion for helping other students like her grow. “It meant a lot to have the moral support of my first-grade teacher throughout my life,” says Delia. “I felt proud to know that she kept moving on up with her career goals.”
Many TFA alumni agree: The students they teach as corps members go on to continually shape their leadership perspective in and out of the classroom. Like teacher Ariana Wall (Las Vegas Valley ’13) says, “They are with us every day as we navigate our first years of teaching, which can be some of the most challenging years of our lives. The students that we connect with are the ones that we think about when staying up late planning the ‘perfect’ lesson.”
Ariana met Ayleen “Ally” Perry when Ally was in her junior year at Canyon Springs High School. Growing up in a low-income community in the Las Vegas Valley, Ally had never been taught by an educator like Ariana, who was young and involved in their lives beyond the classroom. Ariana taught geometry, coached the dance team, built a garden that provided free vegetables to the community, and even invited a chef to speak on nutrition.
For Ally, Ariana remains a close friend, mentor, and confidant to whom she can turn for advice about which sorority to join or how to overcome her first not-so-great grade at college. Ariana even inspired Ally to apply for TFA this year.
“It’s unbelievable to me that one of my former students is applying to be a TFA corps member herself,” says Ariana. “When she told me that she had decided to defer law school and apply for Teach For America, my heart swelled. She feels it is her calling to make an impact on the lives of students just like her.”