Change History. These words are painted in huge print on the lobby wall of Uncommon Charter High. But what does it mean to change history? The meaning is a personal journey that I believe ties all educators, "uncommon educators”, to the important work that we are passionate about and committed to. I think this journey brings about a calling to the work and a quest to find a “home” where you will develop and grow to make waves of impact that brings change.
The Uncommon Schools’ Summer Teaching Fellowship (STF) brings about motivated and passionate individuals to four regions of the Uncommon Schools Charter network: Boston, Rochester, Newark, and New York City. Though we are all Summer Teaching Fellows (STFers), and fundamentals are the same, each experience is completely different. Each STFer is placed in a region, assigned a host school from the Uncommon network, and a Mentor Teacher as tools for their summer work. During your internship, you attend a week-long orientation with Fellows from all regions, you shadow your Mentor Teacher for the last two weeks of school, and you teach Summer Academy, where you are coached on instructional delivery every day. At the conclusion of the program Fellows may be extended an offer to teach with Uncommon upon graduation.
My summer experience as an STFer was greatly shaped by my host school and my Mentor Teacher. At Leadership Prep Bedford Stuyvesant Middle Academy I found a team of individuals who were driven to provide opportunities for our scholars with a passion that drew you to the mission as well. Classrooms were fundamentally the same with many Teach Like A Champion techniques implemented, but they were also milestones of different as each teacher incorporated their identity into instruction. As I observed classrooms and engaged in conversation with members of the team I discovered genuineness, belief, and love. My own experiences have led me to believe that these three components are crucial in the work we do. The LPBS team more than colleagues are a family, and they welcomed me into their family at first sight.
When I think about why I chose to teach with Uncommon I could not answer this question without touching on the experiences that have led me to be an advocate for my students. Every educational choice I have made thus far is aligned with my vision and purpose in education reform. I am a Latina immigrant from the South Texas border who chooses to teach because others have made the same choice and have impacted my life tremendously. I had genuine, committed, and loving people on my corner in high school and through college—they are still there rooting for me, making sure that I do not become another statistic. Making sure that I break the cycle of poverty my parents left Mexico to escape. Making sure that my zip code and the color of my skin do not determine the opportunities, or lack there of, that I have.
Even though I have this drive to be part of the movement for educational equity, and to be in the corners of all of my scholars, I know that the willingness to make a difference is not enough to change and impact lives. Uncommon has provided me with tools to effectively lead my classroom. Every lesson I taught was recorded, and I was given on-the-spot coaching during lessons, glows and grows, practice-time with my mentor teacher implementing feedback, and support every second of my internship. In addition to these tools, living the “teacher life,” though not full out, was the most powerful tool STF gave me because it led me to the most important discovery I made as a Summer Teaching Fellow with Uncommon: discovering who I am as a teacher. Finding my teaching identity has been a journey, but this summer I understood the science of teaching and the art of teaching, and how the right combination of both can have incredible outcomes.
I have decided to “change history” with Uncommon with a team and family that inspire me to be the best teacher, cheerleader, and advocate I can be for my scholars and their community. I have found my calling in teaching and my home with Uncommon. I am taking the offer because I found a home.
Ana Reyes is a Senior at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley in Edinburg, TX.