by Jake Roth, AmeriCorps member serving on the Comcast NBCUniversal team with Jeremiah E. Burke High School
The question, “How can I best support students?” is constantly on my mind as an AmeriCorps member serving with City Year at the Jeremiah E. Burke High School in Dorchester, MA. However, I am not the only member of the Burke community with the same persistent inquiry. The Burke community is fortunate enough to include various people with the same desire to support our students in order for them to achieve to the best of their abilities.
In my investigation of the various supports available at the Burke, I had the distinct pleasure of talking to a fellow AmeriCorps member participating in Boston Teacher Residency (BTR). I spoke with Julia Stoller, a Chicago native and recent graduate of Brown University, who earned her degree in Education Policy. Our discussion covered topics that included how different AmeriCorps programs intersect in order to best serve our students, teachers, faculty, and communities.
JR: What is Boston Teacher Residency (BTR)?
JS: BTR is a one-year, full-time Americorps service program that trains teacher residents to be certified to teach in the Boston Public Schools (BPS). The first year includes hands-on teaching experience alongside a collaborative teacher in a BPS school with ongoing support from coaches and other teachers in the building. Teacher residents earn a Master’s degree in Education from UMass Boston and ultimately a Massachusetts Initial Teaching Licensure in order to commit to three years of teaching in BPS.
JR: How did you find out about BTR?
JS: I wanted to become a teacher and through all of my research I found that BTR was the best program [for me]. It’s really unlike other programs because it’s very tied to the place where you train to become a teacher. For instance, it’s all about the Boston Public Schools. It trains you for a specific intersection of demographics and geography, which I think is really important if you want to become a teacher. You can’t be effective if you train to teach in the suburbs and work in the Boston Public Schools, and vice versa. I like that it was really tailored to what I wanted to do.
JR: What interested you the most about BTR?
JS: I just want to be a really amazing teacher. There are so many problems with education. Research shows that teaching is the most important factor for student success, and I think that it’s what I can contribute to the most at this stage in my life—being the best teacher I can be. I also really love how it’s about relationships. There are so many ways that you can make change, but this is one of the important ways to do so by interacting with people. The relationships you form are the ways to help people, and that’s why I was really drawn to teaching. Also, BTR makes you a really good teacher, and that’s definitely what drew me to the program.
JR: As an AmeriCorps member, what does national service mean to you?
JS: I think that every American should do national service. I think it’s important to consider issues bigger than yourself, and you shouldn’t be able to get away in life just doing things that serve you, especially if you have the means [to serve]. To me, it just seems like a requisite thing to do—at least for one year—and I plan to do it for the rest of my life. But overall I would say that national service means thinking beyond yourself and how you play a role in the systems that are wrong in the US, and what you can do to address those systems.
JR: Have you worked with City Year in your classroom?
JS: Yes! All of my classes have City Year and they’re the best!
JR: How can BTR and City Year best support students, especially in your Geometry classroom?
JS: I think differentiation is one of the biggest challenges in these classrooms because there’s no honors class or repeater course, and there aren’t as many interventions as we need. Also there’s a huge range of skills within a single geometry class because students come from so many different schools and math backgrounds to the Burke, so intervention is huge. That’s something that’s really important for City Year to do—taking small groups of students to help teachers differentiate instruction. And that’s something that BTR—as another adult in the room—can do and we are learning to do it as well as they learn how to become teachers.
JR: What is the role of Americorps as a whole in the Burke community?
JS: There are so many amazing people at the Burke trying to do great things for the students and the community, and there are so many barriers preventing them from doing those things. One of the biggest barriers is that there just aren’t enough bodies to do the work needed. So I think AmeriCorps plays the role of extending the domain of what the adults in the Burke can do. I truly think that teaching is an impossible job; there are so many demands. All of the teachers in the building want to do an amazing job but there are factors preventing them from doing it. So AmeriCorps can help continue the great work that teachers are doing already.