Recent graduate Alyssa Amarain knew that she wanted a career that would have a tangible and direct impact on people’s lives, so she applied to Teach for America, a national teaching corps of college graduates who commit two years to teach in under-resourced urban and rural public schools. The English major has been teaching in New York City to students in grades 7-12, where she’s experienced the challenges and rewards of teaching underrepresented children.
Amarain first heard about Teach for America through friends who were already in the program. She said, “I watched my friends as they entered Teach for America and saw how difficult and rewarding it was and I knew it would be a perfect fit for me.”
The trials of teaching in these schools never dissuaded Amarain, although she admitted to many difficult days. “My students, although they are all in 9th grade, are at a second or third grade reading and writing level and engaging them in the material when they can barely read or write has been challenging. I have, however, seen some success so far,” she said. “One of my students came up to me and said, ‘Ms. Amarain, I got all the questions right on the test. It’s because you helped me. Thank you for helping me, because no one has helped me before.’”
Outside of the classroom Amarain spends much of her time working on her lesson plans. While noting that the pace has been intense, Amarain said it is worth all her sleepless nights if her students understand the material. “I am invested in the success of my students…even if it means I won’t sleep ever again,” she joked.
When she was a student at Fairfield an English grant-writing course, taught by part-time faculty member Tom Sobocinski ’72, M.A. 78 first exposed Amarain to schools in low-income areas and inspired her to pursue careers in that environment. As part of the course she wrote proposals for grants that would support community centers and after-school programs in Bridgeport.
Following her summer of teaching, Amarain was hired at a middle school in the Bronx as a sixth and seventh grade English Language Arts/Humanities teacher. Her goal, she explained, is to be the best teacher that she can be. “I’ve never taught before, but I jumped into this whole-heartedly. When I feel like I’m drowning I remind myself that the students need me. I remember all the teachers that made a lasting impact on me; I want to make a lasting impact on my students as well.”
While currently happy with her school in the Bronx, Amarain can see herself teaching in other cities in the future. But she is certain that her career path has been set forever. “From now until I retire, I will be an educator for the children of our country,” she said.
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