Education Experience

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I first became involved in Education as a member of Student Teachers, a student group, while attending the University of Chicago. I taught creative writing and literacy to local elementary school children and learned just how hard teaching can be, and how rewarding. I had to create lesson plans and manage 15 different sets of behavior at a time. I also got to see amazing growth and development from my students and this experience fuelled my lifelong passion for education and youth advocacy.
After graduating from college I volunteered at the Depression and Bi Polar Support Alliance [DBSA] of Colorado Springs. In addition to running a support group for teens with mood disorders I worked with the funding committee researching and applying for grants. During my time on the funding committee I honed my research and analytical skills and was able to successfully apply for $1,500 in funding for the organization.
I left my volunteer position at DBSA to enter into the Chicago Teaching Fellows [CTF] program. While a CTF corps member I spent 11 weeks training to become a Special Education teacher. During the course of a summer I student taught in area Elementary, Middle and High Schools while taking graduate level course work in Special Education. This experience gave me a broader academic understanding of the desperate need for education reform in America. While I learned a lot about education best practices and was passionate about school reform, I felt that I was not prepared to actually be a teacher. After I successfully finished the program I decided to take a job as a Special Education Paraprofessional at Amandla Charter School in Englewood. While at Amandla I helped students living with disabilities learn and grow.
I also spent a significant amount of time working with the school administration to help increase the efficiency and efficacy of the special education program. After my first year there I wrote a proposal for how the school could change the paraprofessional position. I suggested increased training, supervision and support for the role. The proposal was eventually accepted and I was put in charge of implementing the new the program. While I was the Lead Professional at Amandla I created a training program for new hires, implemented the program and supervised the other paraprofessionals. The program increased the readiness of new hires and led to less burn out and better educational outcomes for students living with disabilities.
I realized working at Amandla that while the school I was working at had good intentions they were limited by structural and systemic problems. I had a strong desire to continue working with kids with emotional and intellectual disabilities but I wanted to try working outside of the current education system which seemed so broken to me. These first hand experiences fueled my decision to move in to and work at Su Casa, a Chicago Catholic Worker house of hospitality. As a Su Casa Catholic Worker I worked intensely with Spanish speaking homeless families living in the shelter, many of whom were women and children escaping domestic violence. During my time at Su Casa, I successfully worked to improve the organization’s capacity to more effectively serve the resident families. However, most of my time was spent tutoring and mentoring the children that I lived with. I helped the children with their homework while using the skills I learned as a paraprofessional to help them deal with their trauma.

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