TF Spotlight: Kern Bien-Aime

At Citizen Schools, no role is more essential to the success of our students than that of the AmeriCorps Teaching Fellow. Citizen Schools National Teaching Fellows create extraordinary enrichment and academic support experiences for underserved students across our nation. On a daily basis, Fellows deepen connections between schools and parents, help to develop social-emotional skills through mentoring and coaching students, and facilitate hands-on learning opportunities through our apprenticeships.

Kern is a Teaching Fellow at the Eugene Wright Science and Technology Academy in Chelsea, Massachusetts.


Why did you decide to become an AmeriCorps Teaching Fellow?

I became an AmeriCorps Teaching Fellow because right now my skills, experiences, and personality belong in the classroom. For years now I've tried to culture my love for learning and teaching, and serving has been a great exercise for this passion. The leadership and mission of Citizen Schools seem to recognize the impact one dedicated individual can have on young lives, and the communities they live in. And when dedicated individuals band together that impact can last for generations. Dedicated individuals also crave professional development - they are dedicated to themselves. I decided to be a Teaching Fellow because I needed to be somewhere with people who will make me better. I do not plan on being the same type of educator 5 years from now. I want to acquire knowledge and experience that will continue to redefine my long-term career goals.

What has been one of the most transformative moments of your service?

One spring day I felt beaten after a heated interaction with a student. I could not figure out what caused this behavior so as the student's level of anger and profanity rose my frustration grew as well. I am the Student Engagement Leader on my team so not being able to de-escalate the situation, in order to have a meaningful conversation, got to me. When I ran out of ideas and patience I decided to fight fire with fire. Needless to say, that is never an appropriate response with students. I started yelling to be heard and supported the power struggle. After I was bailed out by my Campus Director, I thought about how badly I ruined my relationship with that student. The following day my next interaction with this student was all I could think about. When she saw me in the hallway I froze. She ran up and opened her arms wide. I gave her an awkward hug. She said, "I'm sorry about what happened yesterday." With a surprising look on my face I answered, "Yes, I know! That shouldn't have happened, I'm sorry too." She explained she was uncontrollably upset and could not hear anything I had to say. I told her I only wanted to know why. When our conversation was over she held out her fist and said, "are we good?" I bumped it and said, "Of course." This was a transformative moment for me because I clearly saw the benefits of relationship building. It's hard to think about when exactly this student decided I was not only her teacher but someone she could trust.

How has service changed you and your perspective of the world?

Service hasn't changed my perspective of the world. It is validating it. At one point or another everyone everywhere wants to do good. But need the correct resources and environment to fulfill that need. My service IS changing my confidence towards teaching. Coming to AmeriCorps with an education degree meant that I quickly had to put theory into practice. At first, the difference between knowing and doing became stressful, and I began to doubt everything that I learned in college. However, it was due to my background knowledge that I was able to adapt. First I needed to build the relationships with my students, co-workers, and school faculty that I have now.

Join the Americorps National Teaching Fellowship! To apply for the position or to learn more about this opportunity, click here.