We’re proud to call Teach for America-D.C. Region a partner in our work to improve the lives of youth in this region. TFA-D.C. is an important partner in our six-year Ready for Work initiative, designed to ensure young people in Prince George’s County Public Schools graduate from high school on time and career and college ready. TFA-D.C. Region’s new Talent Hub model, which VPP’s investment has helped to develop, is enabling TFA-D.C. Region to place alumni teachers at our partner high schools in an effort to increase students’ academic abilities and their readiness for college and careers.
Recently, TFA-D.C. Region sat down with Camille Sanchez, a Ready for Work Fellow teaching algebra at High Point High School. Below is TFA-D.C. Region’s interview with Camille.
Camille Sanchez (DC Region ’15) is an algebra teacher and Ready for Work Fellow at High Point High School in Prince George’s County, Maryland. Led by Venture Philanthropy Partners, Ready for Work: Champions for Career and College Ready Graduates in Prince George’s County is a six-year cross-sector initiative in Prince George’s County, MD seeking to help young people graduate from high school career and college ready. Camille works with ESOL students (English for Speakers of Other Languages), who learn with the same teachers and student peers every day. Camille prioritizes building respect and trust in her classroom, and creating connections that feel like family.
How has your teaching made a difference in your classroom?
I’ve definitely seen a lot of growth in my students in general. They’re really mastering the algebra content, but their English speaking, writing, and listening skills have also improved dramatically from the beginning of this year to now. I think my students also know that I really care about them as people, so they feel comfortable coming to me, and sending me messages if they need help with something, not just content-wise, but also with their family or if they need advice. I think it’s nice for them to have a teacher that they can come to who understands and who they feel open with.
Have you felt a growth of community in the classroom?
Yeah, my students specifically go through each class during the day together, so every period they have the same students, they just rotate teachers. So the other teachers and I have really tried to build a collaborative culture. Of course it’s not always easy, but we try to remind them that we’re all here for a common purpose and we care about each other. It is a family. We see them every day, so the community has been built through respectfully raising your hand and asking questions and calling each other by name. We know a lot about each other.
How has TFA affected your practice in the classroom?
Teach for America is the foundation of my teaching, so I feel like it’s influenced every aspect of the classroom. Even now in my third year I’m still learning and taking tips from mentors and other corps members. Just culture wise, TFA has been a great resource to see how my culture and the students’ culture is meshing, and what I’m doing to embrace their cultures and help them to see how that relates to the content. I’ve always come back to positive narrating and giving feedback, which I essentially learned during Institute. So all of that has really been the basis of what I do in the classroom. And when I’m thinking of doing things differently, I always think, what have I learned and how can I expand that?
How has participating in the Ready for Work Fellowship been for you?
It’s been a really nice resource to have. First, it brings other alumni in here, like, Ms. Irene Merced (NYC Region ’15) is in the same year as me, but she has different experiences, so it’s been nice to learn from her. And also Venture Philanthropy Partners, it was great to get to know them just to see what they’re doing and how much they care about the kids from a different point of view. It’s also been nice to have continued support from TFA and mentorship even beyond the first two years.
What do you like about Prince George’s County?
The county is huge, so at first it was very intimidating to figure out all of the different schools and how things work. Specifically with High Point, it is a really big school, but once you find the right teachers, it really becomes a little community, so it’s been nice to have so many alumni and corps members in the county to begin with. So while the county’s pretty huge, it does feel like a small community in itself.
Have your future plans changed since you started TFA?
My plans haven’t changed so much as they’ve developed. When I started TFA, I knew that I wanted to teach for a few years, but beyond that I wasn’t sure what I would want to do. But over the past three years, I’ve come to realize that I do want to continue being in the classroom, or at least in the school in general. My hope is to teach for many more years and eventually become some sort of instructional coach, or a math content go-to person, someone where other teachers can also come to me for content.
Do you have any advice for 2nd year corps members about to become alumni?
I would suggest continuing to reach out for TFA resources.
We still have an active role in the community. So if you’re reaching out, they’ll always respond and be available for help.
What about for new corps members?
I would say, don’t be afraid to reach out for help, it’s okay if you’re struggling just as long as you’re finding the right resources to help you get to where you need to be!