AmeriCorps Teaching Fellow Spotlight: Q&A with Mykia Richards from Citizen Schools North Carolina

Mykia is an alumna of our AmeriCorps National Teaching Fellowship and currently works as a Deputy Campus Director at the Neal Middle School in Durham, North Carolina.What brought you to Citizen Schools?

Mykia Richards talks with her students.
Mykia Richards talks with her students.

I always knew I wanted to work with youth but wasn’t sure in what capacity. Did I want to be a teacher or did I want to work for an organization that indirectly impacted the lives of youth? I wasn’t sure. To test out the waters on the teacher side, I thought I would apply for Teach for America. I would be able to test out my teaching skills for a limited time period and sort of get my feet wet in a field that I wasn’t too sure I wanted to enter. I was so excited about all of the great things I had heard about Teach for America and was ready to apply until I came across Citizen Schools at a career fair. After learning more about the organization and its unique apprenticeship model, I was smitten and switched paths. I was on the Citizen Schools train and was ready to work hard to make an impact in a very unique way.

What has working here meant to you?

Working at Citizen Schools has been a roller coaster. With any great roller coaster there are lots of twists, jaw dropping dips, and tons of thrills. You may be hesitant to get on at first (intensive summer training and the reality that you’ll soon be responsible for 20 middle schoolers), but you do. It starts off slow (Regional training, end of July, through August), ramps up a bit (Campus Based training, leading up to the first day of school), and then takes off full speed (through the beginning of the school year). You finally get to the end (the WOW!) laughing, crying, shaking, but oddly ready to get back on again because you know you accomplished something great. Citizen Schools has stretched and pushed me in many ways and I know I will credit the organization with being the most pivotable job experience in my young career. Citizen Schools really does prepare you with the skills needed to be a successful professional in whatever career you choose to pursue. Organization, time management, critical thinking, and decisive leadership are just some of the many traits Citizen Schools strengthens in the individual. With any job there are going to be challenges; like those roller coasters that take you on the ride of your life. However, the organization definitely prepares you to ride those coasters and you’ll get off saying “I’m a pro; that was nothing, because I’ve ridden the greatest roller coaster of them all and that’s the Citizen Schools Coaster!”

What has your biggest achievement been since you began working here?

I believe my biggest achievement has been being a role model for over 50 students during my time with the organization. As educators, we have a big responsibility when we step in front of the classroom. It’s humbling - by stepping into this room, I have the power and influence through my words and actions to impact the minds and hearts of the students. That’s big, and a responsibility that I don’t take lightly. Years from now, I will see some of the students that passed through my classes and I will say “Wow! I remember when…” and I  won’t believe that I had some type of impact, no matter how big or small. That’s powerful, and I am proud of that. Our youth are our future and if we don’t give them time, encouragement, and guidance then who will?

What are you looking forward to in your next 6 months at work?

I am looking forward to lots of growth and “ah ha!” moments. Working as a campus leader has been a lot different than serving in the classroom as an AmeriCorps Teaching Fellow. It has pushed me to think in different ways about a variety of situations. I feel fortunate to work with an awesomeCampus Director who has a strong work ethic and propensity for excellence. This individual truly has made my time bearable and I am looking forward to working with and learning even more through her example in these next few months.

I am also looking forward to pushing staff to work to the best of their abilities to impact the students. One of the biggest challenges in transitioning from a Teaching Fellow to Deputy Campus Director was realizing that my primary focus is no longer directly serving students. I can no longer get caught up in the minute details of how a lesson should be delivered or how classroom procedures should be structured. My primary focus is now supporting our AmeriCorps National Teaching Fellows and School Support staff, working through them to get results for our students. If they are supported and have the tools to do their jobs then the students will be successful. That was a paradigm shift for me, and I look forward to continuing to work to ensure staff feel appreciated, supported, and valued. Our staff work extremely hard every day and deserve a lot of credit for their work; the least I can do is express my appreciation to them, have their back and empower them to have the most impact on our students. That is my mission for the next 6 months.

Interested in joining the team? Apply to join the AmeriCorps Teaching Fellowship here. If you'd like to apply to a campus leadership role, learn more and apply here.