Teaching Fellow Reflects on Two Years of Service

Amanda Worrell is a second year Teaching Fellow at De Vargas Middle School in Santa Fe, New Mexico.  It feels like only yesterday that I was interviewing for a position with the Citizen Schools National Teaching Fellowship at De Vargas Middle School in Santa Fe, New Mexico. I cannot begin to describe the knots that consumed my stomach the first day I stepped into my classroom after summer training. This feeling seems like a distant memory after two years of intense professional and personal growth-- working with supportive teammates, dedicated volunteers and of course, incredible students.

IMG_0167I had always heard from colleagues that there is no moment greater than seeing a student have that “aha” moment-- that moment when nothing else matters because they have learned how to complete a math problem, speak in front of the class with a loud, strong voice, or when they tell you they care. My love for teaching really began to resonate with me when I witnessed my first “aha” moment with my students. It occurred when I asked them to describe me.

I told them to be very honest and, in the words of Count of Monte Cristo, to “do their worst.” I asked them to describe me in three sentences. Reading through their kind and well thought-out words, I finally reached the last response from a student of mine named Diego. He said, “I know that I am capable of more. I want to do more. I have more confidence in school thanks to Ms. Worrell. She is always there for me and pushes me to show my best.” His response reminded me why I wanted to teach in the first place.

IMG_7106 (1)It was the idea that these kids will never stop amazing you that helped me connect to the volunteer "Citizen Teacher" who I supported once a week in my classroom. Robert Nott of the Santa Fe New Mexican, teaches a journalism "apprenticeship" class once a week during the Citizen Shools program hours in the afternoon.  I am fortunate enough to work with a man like Robert. He goes out of his way to help the kids make the best student newspaper possible, while they develop writing and critical thinking skills along way.

The way that Robert connects with our students is undeniably beautiful to observe. He never loses his patience, even when they are being those difficult middle schoolers I have grown to love. I have seen him lend a listening ear to each child either to support them with their writing, or a personal issue that has changed the course of their day.

I am excited for what the future holds. Next year I will be attending the Truman School of Public Affairs at the University of Missouri to pursue a master’s degree in Public Affairs. I am grateful for all that I have learned from Citizen Schools, the students, and the volunteers that I have worked with. My experience with this organization has provided me with the skills I need to continue on a career path that I hope will always include education.