Dylan Letellier of Fredericksburg, VA is a second-year student majoring in English at Brown University. The daughter of two high school teachers, she hopes to pursue a career in education some day. As a participant in Brown’s Wintership program, Dylan spent two weeks with Inspired Teaching’s Residency program, where she eagerly and thoughtfully took on the task of analyzing best practices in recruitment and selection.
I’ve always been interested in education, but I assumed that if I wanted to make a difference in a student’s life, I would have to go into the classroom. Working at Center for Inspired Teaching showed me so many ways to improve education without necessarily becoming a teacher of record. Jéri Ogden, the Inspired Teaching staff member who worked most closely with me, explained that while she was able to touch each of her students’ lives as a classroom teacher, as a mentor to the residents and fellows at Inspired Teaching, she’s been able to influence the education of all the students in each of her mentees’ classrooms.
Working at Inspired Teaching, I learned more about nonprofit organizations in general, and specifically how this one is socially active in the DC community. I’m only familiar with the (a)political environment of public schools in a rural, conservative county, so attending the meeting in which Jéri and LaTonia planned events for Black Lives Matter Week of Action was a completely new and exciting experience. Seeing what Inspired Teaching can do as a nonprofit showed me the benefits of working for an organization that values social justice and isn’t driven by the prevailing social mores of local taxpayers.
It’s clear that every employee here is 100% dedicated to keeping the organization’s promise to teachers, schools, and the DC community. From my first day, I could tell that Inspired Teaching functions so well because everyone is working toward the same goal, and because each staff member is truly concerned about the well being of his/her coworkers. This caring environment made me feel at ease in the office and in the schools. Colleagues who treat each other like family seem to be a real advantage of working with a smaller staff.
Those two weeks at Inspired Teaching also opened my eyes to alternative routes to becoming a teacher. I was previously familiar with only the more traditional ways of becoming licensed, but the Residency program goes far beyond sending students to graduate classes and giving them one semester of student teaching. At first, I couldn’t believe that teaching residents enter the classroom in the first year of graduate school and become teachers of record in their second, but this incredible system allows the student teachers to spend so much more time in the classroom. I also think it’s unique that new teachers continue receiving support from their coach and other Inspired Teaching staff members. Teachers are able to immediately apply what they learn in ed school, and when they come across issues in their own classrooms, they have an established support network to help them.
Finally, working with Inspired Teaching introduced me to the climate of urban public and charter schools. My own school system had one magnet high school and a few religious private schools, but the majority of students attended their assigned neighborhood schools. Jéri taught me about the DC school system and how charter schools operate. When I visited the schools, I was able to interact with the young students and witness them in action. There seems to be a false assumption that students from disadvantaged backgrounds will be less motivated and capable in school, but in just a few minutes of observing the classrooms at Capital City PCS and Inspired Teaching Demonstration School, I saw several students showcase their inherent desire to learn and practice good community citizenship.
My favorite experience was watching a third-grade teacher work through new vocabulary words with a small group of students. His ability to pull knowledge out of them rather than push information on them, and the students’ resulting excitement to share their insights, was truly an “inspiring” moment. Thank you, Inspired Teaching, for sharing those two weeks with me.