Audrey Sanders (City Year Chicago ’16) and Connor Cavanaugh (City Year New York ’15) always knew they wanted a career in social impact. The City Year mission inspired them. Their passion for education only grew, and both are choosing to continue their impact from their own classrooms as Teach For America corps members--Audrey as an elementary school teacher in Chicago and Connor as a special education teacher in New York.
How did you decide you wanted to teach after City Year?
Connor Cavanaugh: I went into City Year with an open mind. As the year went on, I found I really enjoyed working with students in a school environment. Right out of college, I didn’t expect to feel this fulfilled in my first full-time job. My focus list students weren’t friends at the start of the year, but they formed this bond through the afterschool program that carried into the classroom. Watching them interact with each other, and with adults, was very enjoyable to be around, and I wanted more of that.
Audrey Sanders: Ever since I was young, I had a goal of becoming a teacher. After student teaching, I still wasn’t sure exactly what my calling was, but I was inspired by the City year mission. I decided to do a year of service in Chicago, building relationships with students as their tutor and mentor. We formed a special bond, and it opened my eyes to the fully transparent student perspective. Now, I finally feel ready to become an educator that can apply a well-rounded student outlook to my teaching practice.
How did you decide that Teach for America (TFA) is the right fit for you?
Connor: I talked to a lot of TFA alums. My City Year program manager was a TFA alum from Colorado. There was a TFA corps member at the school where I served with City Year whom I was able to speak with too. Everyone’s experience seemed really empowering and each positive review made the decision easier. As a TFA corps member, I can’t wait to meet my students and the talented professionals in my school community.
Audrey: I wanted to continue to strive for equity and excellence in schools through targeted interventions, both through academic and emotional support. I want every student to have the confidence that they will graduate, and a combination of City Year and Teach for America make me feel so prepared to do just that.
How did you choose which TFA region you wanted to teach in?
Connor: I wanted to stay in New York so I could continue my impact in the same community I served in with City Year. Everyone in New York is so different and really embraces that diversity. The community I work with is underserved, but the people are not letting themselves be victims of it. It’s been an inspiring city to work in and I want to continue to be a part of that change.
Audrey: I decided to teach in Chicago-Northwest Indiana because I wanted to continue to serve the Chicago community. I feel as though I have become acclimated to the culture’s climate. I know my city well, and there’s no other place I’d rather make my impact.
Where do you see yourself 10 years from now?
Connor: Plan A is to be a full-time teacher at a school here in New York. Plan B would be to work in a school and support students outside of the classroom. Working in a school helped me realize just how many valuable mentors students need inside and outside the teacher’s role. I could see myself as a counselor or occupational therapist. But it definitely starts with being a teacher.
Audrey: Ten years from now I want to be Teacher of the Year, and I want to continue to work and carry out the missions of City Year and Teach for America. I want my students to fall in love with learning, and then give back to their communities in some type of meaningful way.
What advice do you have for other City Year AmeriCorps members and alums considering teaching?
Connor: Apply with an open mind. Lean on the teachers you’ve worked with, as well as your program manager. Use them as resources. You have so many inspiring examples in front of you. This is definitely the biggest commitment I’ve made in my life as a professional, and I’m so excited to dive in.
Audrey: My advice is simple and easy: you can do it! You have a year of service under your belt, and you can apply all that you’ve learned and grow even more as an educator and as a human being through two or more years of meaningful service. Personally, I could not think of a more fulfilling way to spend this next chapter of my life.
City Year is proud to partner with Teach For America as a Career Partner to fuel the number of teachers working in some of our country’s highest-need classrooms. This partnership reflects the shared visions and values of both organizations and our belief in the importance of fueling a movement of leaders who work to ensure that kids growing up in poverty get an excellent education. City Year strengthens an applicant’s competitiveness and chances for being selected for Teach For America. In 2015, over 400 CY corps members and alums applied to TFA, many of whom are now teaching in their City Year region—in some cases—their City Year schools. To learn more about our partnership with Teach for America, click here.
About Audrey and Connor:
Audrey Sanders served as a 2016 City Year Chicago AmeriCorps member at the McNair School of Excellence. Originally from Glenview, IL, she graduated from Illinois State University in 2016 with a degree in elementary education. She is a 2017 TFA-Chicago corps member, where she teaches elementary school.
Connor Cavanaugh served as a 2015 City Year New York AmeriCorps member at P.S. 108, where he supported a 4th-grade classroom. Originally from San Antonio, Texas, he graduated from Elon University in 2015 with a degree in journalism and sociology. He join the TFA New York corps as a special education teacher this year.