By Sonia Bernal, AmeriCorps member, John Liechty Middle School
City Year AmeriCorps members have strived to make a difference in the lives of young people at John Liechty Middle School (JLMS) for ten years. Upholding the values of teamwork and Ubuntu, AmeriCorps members at John Liechty Middle School bring dedication and humanity to their collaboration with school administrators, teachers, and students. This has resulted in strong partnerships with John Liechty teachers, who make up an important piece of the puzzle to drive change amongst our JLMS students. Teachers are our biggest supporters inside and outside the classroom. Inside the classroom, they provide us with the opportunity to share ideas on classroom management. Outside of the classroom, teachers become involved in the different activities we host throughout the school year, one of them being our Annual Fall Festival.
A star teacher is Ms. Berasaluce, who has been a strong partner of ours at JLMS for six years. This year, she donated spooky decorations for our haunted house, and our Second Year AmeriCorps member Samantha Wilson is continuing her partnership with Ms. Berasaluce this year to make that positive impact for students. In an interview with Ms. Berasaluce, she describes her experience with City Year AmeriCorps members and the challenges she has had working with them. Nonetheless, her favorite part of City Year is the young idealists that step foot in her classroom ever year.
Q: What impact have you witnessed City Year have at JLMS?
A: I think one of the biggest impacts I’ve seen City Year actually accomplish here on our campus is bringing a lot of positivity to the students. They always greet them with cheers and chants which really sets the morning, sets the day, for the kids. I think that it's a big boost for a lot of kids in our community, it’s one of bigger impacts.
Q: How does having a City Year mentor in a student’s life make a difference?
A: For a lot of these kids, they need another adult. They need someone that they can relate to. Having a City Year AmeriCorps member there, they’re adults but they are young adults and so the kids can actually relate to them a lot more than they probably can with their teachers. It’s nice for the kids to have another person who is more youthful, that they know is an adult who is there to help them. It lets them open up quite a bit more than they can with any other adult on campus. That’s a big thing for our kids.
Q: How do teachers and City Year AmeriCorps members collaborate in the classroom?
A: Well, I feel that City Year Corps members are an extension of what the teachers bring into the classroom. As the teachers are doing a lesson, the AmeriCorps member is going around making sure that the kids are paying attention, that they are taking notes. Those little things make a big difference in a lesson. We can’t always make sure that the kids are paying attention, that the kids are taking notes, and it does alleviate a little bit of that stress for the teachers. I feel that it makes the lesson run more smoothly and I feel they are an extension of us.
Q: What is your favorite thing about City Year?
A: Well, I have to say I am biased toward the AmeriCorps member. I think City Year does a nice job of selecting their members and they do a very nice job of pairing those members with teachers. I have had a very good experience with my AmeriCorps members throughout the years, I have been able to get along with them very well. I haven’t had many issues with my corps member and a lot of the issues, well the few that we’ve had, have been misunderstandings. I’ve learned over the years how to communicate with corps my members, which has really made a huge difference. AmeriCorps members themselves are one my favorite things about City Year. GREAT PEOPLE!!!!!
Q: How does having City Year on the school campus affect the school environment?
A: City Year does a really nice job of making a lot of the school activities happen that I think otherwise wouldn’t happen. The kids look forward to the haunted house for Halloween, we’ve had dances that City Year has hosted and when we have the Fall Fest, we have booths and other activities, like the science fair or math and literacy night. Just being able to count on City Year to come up with making their own booths and participate and make their presence known really does boost the school’s environment. It’s a really great boost to have City Year here on our campus.
Q: What message would you like to leave for the team?
A: The biggest thing that I want to leave for City Year is, don’t be afraid to speak up. Don’t be afraid to speak or let your feelings show with your fellow teachers. You have a lot of ideas too and we want to hear them. We don’t want you to be afraid to speak to us, we want to hear from you, granted there are certain ways that you can come and approach us. I think it depends on the teacher that you are working with, but we all do appreciate feedback. If you see something going on in the classroom, if you feel there is an idea that you’d like to try out, let us know. We are definitely open to hearing about it and sometimes it could be things that we haven’t thought about. Just because we are the teachers in the classroom, doesn’t mean we don’t welcome ideas. We want to know how you’re feeling in the classroom too, so having that open communication with your fellow teacher is going to be super important. Just be open and don’t be afraid to speak up.