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- Roncalli STEM Academy
TEACH FOR AMERICA CORPS MEMBER SPOTLIGHT - KATIE KELLY
Teach for America corps member commit to teaching at least two years in the District.
Katie Kelly, a native of Lisbon, Connecticut, majored in Political Science and Spanish in college. She currently teaches English Language Arts at Roncalli STEM Academy.
EDUCATION AS A CAREER
“As cliche as it may sound, I truly felt as though education chose me. In all of my free time in college I found myself returning to the classroom. I volunteered with the English As a Second Language Club, tutored within the Student Accessibility Center, and nannied with three different families throughout my college experience. I especially loved working with children because they always remind me that we all still have that childlike energy inside of us.
“I chose education because I wanted to form deep and meaningful relationships in my work. I wanted the ability to encourage growth and cultivate passion around education and all of the life experiences that it can provide us. I have such a deep conviction about the importance of literacy, specifically, and its ability to connect an individual to society at large, politics, culture, and creative expression.”
WHY TEACH FOR AMERICA
“I elected to join Teach For America back in 2019, before the pandemic even started. I was flagged down by a recruiter who heard me saying to another table that I was a Spanish speaker who wanted to work with English Language Learners, because the classrooms I volunteered in were all new Americans learning English. I talked with the TFA recruiter, immediately asked for her phone number, and had a meeting with her set up for the next day.
“I actually became a Campus Ambassador before I became an applicant. It was through my experience as a Campus Ambassador that I internalized TFA's mission and gained the confidence that all workers were truly committed to that vision of ‘One Day.’
“I elected to join Teach For America because I thought that I was uniquely poised to educate the next generation of scholars, activists, creatives, engineers, teachers, journalists, nurses, authors, historians, and scientists. Young people possess so much transformative power, but they don't always recognize that potential because they are told that their values, ideas, or skills don't matter. I joined TFA because I wanted to be that person in a student's life, that person who encouraged a student to follow their dream or expand their horizons beyond the narrow life path they believe is preordained for them.
“I wanted to be that person in a kid's life to tell them, ‘No, don't let other people's doubts about your potential become your reality. I believe in you. I care for you. I will do everything I can to help you become whoever it is that you choose to be.’
“I am really close with my family, so I definitely had reservations about moving so far away. Apart from my one cousin who is a Major League Baseball player, all of my family lives in New England. I saw some member of my extended family at least once a month and I never had a championship game, awards night, graduation, or birthday without my entire family celebrating and supporting me. My family, as I alluded to, is incredibly supportive, however, so the transition out here has been easier in that respect. I FaceTime with them on Sunday nights and we send lots of letters and postcards. They always tell me how proud they are of my career choice and remind me that even when I feel like I may be failing, my students appreciate my consistent hard work and that demonstrates my love for them.”
IMPACT OF LIFE EXPERIENCES
“My brother passed away from brain cancer when he was in 8th grade. He was diagnosed when he was in 6th grade and went through several surgeries and rounds of chemotherapy over two years time. All the while, Joe went to school. It was his happy place: teachers supported him, friends made him laugh, his teammates gave him community and purpose. Joe went to school even up to the week of his passing.
“I just remember that feeling, that school was a safe space. It was a place where you just got to be a kid. I want my classroom to feel like that place for my students. Joe's experience with cancer and the resilience he demonstrated also remind me daily to be conscious of what my students endure when they leave the doors of Roncalli. You don't know what someone is going through, or what they have waiting for them at home. Assume positive intent and treat your kids graciously. They deserve the benefit of the doubt, always.
“I always tell my students that I care about them as a person before I care about them as a student. I want their personal needs met before I demand that they comply and finish their work. I give them opportunities to talk with me about what is going on in their life right now so that I can be helpful to them. I provide them food and lots of second chances for work. I want them to know how much I want them to be well.”
APPROACH TO TEACHING
“We need to teach our students consequences and accountability. That is the way that life works: if you fail something, you try again until you get it right. Fall down 9 times, stand up 10. Clear accountability measures have the power to instill work ethic and intrinsic motivation in our students. It demonstrates to students that their education is paramount and that they cannot progress without it.
“At the end of the day, I want my students to have options. I don't want their lives to be a product of inevitables, of constrained opportunities, of ‘this is my only option.’ I want students to have all of the skills, resources, and requirements to choose their life. They are eligible to go to college if they want to. They can go to trade school if they want to. They can become artists or poets or singers if they want to.
“Economists show that college educated individuals make more money, live longer, and have more stable, happy lives. I want my students to have a choice over the life that they curate for themselves, and that their life doesn't happen to them because they weren't prepared enough by their school to achieve at a higher level. Everyone deserves to be happy and choose their life path, no matter what it may be.”
FROM RONCALLI PRINCIPAL MIKE CSERVENAK
“Katie Kelly made a professional and compassionate impression from the very moment I was able to view her introduction video from TFA. This school year, Ms. Kelly has dedicated herself to her practice as an educator and also as a meaningful student advocate. She has also taken on our school newspaper and I’m excited to see the results!
“RSA is very proud to have Ms. Kelly on our staff.”