Alyssa Pressman is a first year National Teaching Fellow in Charlotte, North Carolina.
I go to work every day with a purpose and leave every day excited about the next. I knew it wouldn’t be easy, but when I made the decision to be an AmeriCorps National Teaching Fellow with Citizen Schools, I knew it was the right choice thanks to the people I get to work with every day-- my team, and my students.
1. The Team.
For me, deciding to join the AmeriCorps National Teaching Fellowship was all about the people. When I first met my team at Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School in Charlotte, North Carolina, I saw how much they truly cared about and supported each other. It’s hard not to like the people you work with when you’re all there to make a real difference and serve the community. I instantly liked them and knew I had made the choice.
I never really thought about being a teacher, but the Fellowship is so unique in that you get to teach students, while being part of such a collaborative and well-rounded team. We all have many roles, from managing volunteers, to analyzing student grades, and the best part is that we’re all there to support and learn from each other. We laugh every day, have fun every day, and I look forward to going to work to see them. I knew this work would be challenging, but my team helps me understand that no matter how hard it can be on some days, together we are making a real impact on kids.
2. The Students
At the beginning of the year, one student’s mom told me that her daughter never wanted to be in school. She had a problem with too many absences and her mom really wanted her to socialize and be more confident. According to research by Robert Balfanz, less than 80% attendance in 6th grade put students at high risk for dropping out of school down the road. I was immediately concerned and determined to help this sweet, shy student.
I have a rule in my classroom that when my students speak they have to stand up so that they get comfortable talking in front of a group. I knew this student was a hard worker and she had a flare for art, so I would ask her about her artwork and get her talk about it with me one on one. After spending the time to really connect with her, one day when I asked a question in class, she was the first one to stand up and answer the question. Now she reaches out to help out other students in the classroom and participates regularly. I am proud to say that she had perfect school attendance during her first semester of Citizen Schools.
That story always reminds me just how rewarding it is when you have one of those amazing days with the students. You never know what they are going to come into the classroom with and it can be really tough sometimes. But the students want to learn, and I go back to work every day to help them. It surprised me just how much they have made an impact on me, and how I can leave work feeling like it was the best day ever, no matter what the challenges are.
Joining the Teaching Fellowship is by far the best decision I have ever made. I always tell my friends and family that everyone who graduates from college should do some kind of service, and the AmeriCorps National Teaching Fellowship is a great way to serve. I don’t think there is any job out there more rewarding. Every day I have the chance to give these students the belief that they can go to college and achieve their dreams. The Teaching Fellowship is going to push you as a person and as a professional. You are going to grow and learn so much. It is definitely a challenge, but no matter how tough my day is, when I go home I know I made a difference. And when I wake up in the morning I am excited to do it again.
You can make an impact while shaping your career like Alyssa, by applying to the National Teaching Fellowship today.