For a Kid, Zip Code Shouldn’t Matter
I have so much to write in this post. When Teach For America came to me I wondered, exactly, how I’d get started. Most of you know we just relocated to Northwest Arkansas. Arkansas is one of the poorest states in the nation. When we moved just a handful of minutes outside of Bentonville, headquarters to one of the largest (and wealthiest) corporations in the world, I was shocked that in that very town 90% of the students in my stepdaughter’s school are considered in-need. There are 16 million students like this in our country – growing up in poverty and only one in three of them are going to finish high school. Of that group only 18%-18%!!!- will go to college.
In another life I was a second grade teacher. I adored my students, many of whom are now past college age. As it turns out teaching wasn’t my calling, but you know whose calling it was? Joe Zawodny. He was my chemistry and math teacher in high school and until this day I’d venture to tell you that he inspires each and every student who has walked through his classroom doors. We are a special club, those who had the privilege of being taught by this man. You see, he didn’t just teach us from a book. He taught us from the heart. My love of science was inspired by this man and my love for the ocean…oh that love. He had a HUGE hand in creating it. It was with him and my fellow classmates I first stuck my snorkel-masked face in the ocean waters of Key Largo. I remember Mr. Z (I can’t bring myself to call him Joe even at almost 40 years of age) swimming past me as I squealed under the water pointing out Queen Angelfish, Parrotfish nibbling on gorgeous coral and a barracuda. He didn’t just teach us; he showed us life beyond the classroom. He showed us passion and it stuck with so many of us. It didn’t matter what our parents’ income happened to be – and in our school there was quite the disparity in financial status. He loved us all. We united in our love for him and throughout our lives though miles have separated us, we remain connected through his inspiration. If you could read his Facebook page, in less than a moment you’d just know that we were; we are, lucky that the universe deemed us worthy of his mentorship. THAT is the effect a teacher can have on your life. THAT is the effect a teacher SHOULD have on every child’s life. And this is why Teach For America strives to do this for those students who may feel that no one remembers them or that they aren’t good enough because they’re growing up in the wrong neighborhood.
As a military brat and a military spouse this is why I love Teach For America. They know our veterans and their spouses take on leadership roles and have met challenges throughout a military career that equips them for the classroom. Those who want to continue a service legacy can do so touching the lives of students. To do this, Teach For America is dedicated to the training and lifelong leadership development of their teachers who are placed throughout 52 regions of the United States. Whether a Seabee, Corpsman or college grads who majored in History or Business, Teach For America recruits individuals from all backgrounds. Their alumni are known for holding distinguished leadership roles in a vast array of fields while advocating for the five million kids they have reached through their efforts over 25 years. Five million kids. I love that number.
There is a verse I once read that goes like this:
I’ve seen and met angels wearing the disguise of ordinary people living ordinary lives. They are teachers.
Okay. Now do tell, please. Who was the teacher that touched your life? I’d love to know about them. Give them a shout-out in the comments!