BY SPECIAL TO THE MONITOR
Alexina Beckley is a first year corps member teacher with Teach For America. She teaches 7th Grade reading and writing at PSJA ISD’s Audie Murphy Middle School in Alamo.
Q: What motivated you to apply to join Teach For America in the Rio Grande Valley?
A: After serving as a teacher’s aide with City Year, another AmeriCorps program, I was motivated to continue working in education, but this time as a classroom teacher. Teach For America’s core values were aligned with what I was looking for, and I knew I would find talented and like-minded individuals at TFA that would help mold me into the best educator I can be. I was especially excited by the opportunity to move to the Rio Grande Valley as I knew I would be able to develop my skills as an English teacher, with a specific focus on ELL (English Language Learner) instruction.
Q: What has been one of the most surprising things you’ve come to learn about education during your time as a classroom leader?
A: Everyone will tell you teaching is hard, especially your first year. However, I’ve been surprised by the high level of support and resources available to first year teachers. PSJA ISD has a strong new teacher coaching program, and my campus is full of supportive veteran teachers and administrators that are always willing to lend a hand and give advice. My coaches and peers at Teach For America augment the great support I get at my campus as well.
Q: If you could change one thing for your students, what would it be?
A: One thing I love about middle school students is that they are beginning to figure out who they are and what their interests are. The majority of my students are heavily involved in multiple extracurricular activities — sports, music, art, UIL, robotics … the list could go on and on! If I could change one thing for my students, it would be to make sure that by the end of middle school they all have at least one extracurricular interest that excites them and that they want to continue exploring at the high school level. When students begin to discover what they’re passionate about, it helps them make real world connections and find relevance in their academic material.
Q: At a time when more people recognize the inequity of education in public schools, Teach For America has an important role to play. What do you view as Teach For America’s role in creating systemic change?
A: Teach For America creates meaningful change as a teacher preparation program that blends the teaching of pedagogy with conversations about educational inequality. Professional development and coaching through TFA focuses not only on our content, but also on concrete ways in which we can become agents for social change within the classroom, such as learning to best serve ELL students, making connections to the community, and encouraging students to challenge themselves. Learning to become a teacher while using this lens of social change has been transformational not only for myself, but is also happening across the country with TFA.
Q: What are the most rewarding aspects of your work as a corps member?
A: By far, the most rewarding aspect of my work is seeing student achievement. From something as small as hearing a student say “oooh now I get it!” during an activity on comma rules to large feats such as a student passing a difficult exam for the first time, I try to finish each day focused on one moment of student achievement.
Q: Can you share an anecdote or personal experience from your classroom or school?
A: I had to laugh a couple weeks ago when it snowed for the first time here in years. I’m originally from Illinois, so I can’t remember a winter without snow! Seeing the looks of pure joy on my students’ faces as they experienced snowfall for the first time was priceless. Afterwards, my students wrote about the experience in their weekly “Memory Essay” assignment. Those are essays I will surely not forget!