Brand New Teachers Reflect on First Semester in the Classroom

Educators

If you ask any educator about their first year in the classroom, they’d likely tell you it was filled with excitement, nervousness, stress, accomplishment, and hopefully, fulfillment. At Green Dot Public Schools, it’s very important to us that new teachers would also say it was filled with support.

One such way we’re developing and supporting new educators is through our accelerated credentialing program, Adelante. Figuratively meaning “faster!” the Adelante Credentialing Program is helping new teachers earn their credential and teach in a Green Dot classroom at the same time.

We know coursework alone cannot adequately prepare an individual to be a successful teacher--like any professional developing their craft, they need hands-on practice. That is why our Adelante program combines curriculum created and delivered by Green Dot team members and Loyola Marymount University partners with daily classroom experience. With the end of the first semester under our belt, we checked in with some of our teachers from this year’s Adelante cohort to reflect on their time in the classroom so far.

Dustin Stevenson, Ánimo South Los Angeles Charter High School

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On the Friday of my first week, I had a student come to my classroom after school, who poked his head in and said, ‘Excuse me sir, can I read you this thing I wrote? I'm curious to hear your thoughts,’” recalled Dustin Stevenson, English teacher at Ánimo South Los Angeles Charter High School.

The student shared an original poem with Stevenson, and to his surprise, the student had implemented enjambment, a technical poetry technique they’d briefly gone over in class.

I tried to use that thing you told us about--did I do it right?" the student asked. 

For Stevenson, this moment validated his decision to become an educator, and set the tone for his first year of teaching. “For students to already have that level of enthusiasm and want to come share something independently with me, made my first week special.”

Frida Morales, Ánimo James B. Taylor Charter Middle School

“As a teacher, you're like a conductor of an orchestra, but sometimes your orchestra may forget the notes and play a different song,” chuckled Frida Morales, science teacher at Ánimo James B. Taylor Charter Middle School. “But I’ve been equipped with the tools and supports to refine, readdress learning, and get us back in tune.”

Morales creates opportunities for her sixth grade students to engage in science and interact with the natural phenomena that surround them.

“My vision for my classroom has always been for it to be a place where students don't just learn facts, but an environment where students acquire knowledge that is meaningful to them and can be applied to their lives.”

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For Morales, working with sixth grade students has been rewarding, as she has the opportunity to support students through their transition from elementary to middle school. “Aside from the growth of my students and myself, I look forward to creating more engaging and, frankly, mind-blowing science experiences.”

Chanti Burnette, Ánimo South Los Angeles Charter High School

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"Every day I'm surprised by a student. Sometimes it's a talent they have, a perspective they share, or a skill I can see they really want to develop," said Chanti Burnette, Ánimo South Los Angeles Charter High School ninth grade English teacher.

For her, being an English teacher is more than just teaching text, it requires tapping into students’ curiosity, investing them in their own learning, and helping them build connections between what they read and their daily lives.

Burnette is most excited to expose her students to Romeo and Juliet, as this work contains themes that remain relevant to today’s young adults. “I watch their personal lives develop, and I hope they can relate this story to their own dramas, loves, and friendships; so it’s going to be fun to tie this classic story to their world.”

First Year and Beyond

At Green Dot, we are familiar with the complexities and challenges new teachers face, which is why we offer such robust supports. We want to ensure that our first year teachers are equipped with the skills necessary to succeed, and to maintain the passion with which they entered education with.

Prior to entering the classroom, first year teachers participate in a week of professional development and onboarding. In addition, each of our first year teachers are assigned a coach to work with them on refining curriculum and actualizing their instructional aspirations.

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Coaches work together with school leaders, who also act as instructional coaches, to align their feedback and development. Throughout the year, our first year teachers also participate in additional professional development opportunities that align to their coaching and classroom goals, because we know that in order for our students to keep growing, our teachers must grow as well.

Whether it’s teaching enjambements, crafting mind-blowing science experiments, or creating connections to the age-old woes of teenage love, we believe in the powerful learning that is happening and will continue to happen in classrooms facilitated by Mr. Stevenson, Ms. Morales, and Ms. Burnette.  We are excited about witnessing the growth of this year’s new teacher cohort, and especially those taking their first teaching steps forward through our Adelante program.

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