I grew up on the edge of the Rust Belt in a central Illinois town struggling to rebound after the closure of multiple factories. Living in a community with working-class poverty as well as rising high school dropout and teen pregnancy rates left me with a lot of questions about social developments, economics and the way the world works.
Ultimately, this experience led me to sociology and political science at Knox College, where I was able to take courses on everything from race and poverty to the Cuban revolution to art history.
I tried pretty hard not to become a teacher.
Both of my parents were teachers and college professors, and my brother was a teacher for a few years, but I loved working with students and young people, and shortly after graduating, I packed two suitcases and flew to New York City for an AmeriCorps position as a teaching assistant in New York City.
I loved working with students, and after my first year, I joined the New York City Teaching Fellows, earned a master’s of education from St. John’s in New York, and taught for five years in New York City’s Title I schools. I began teaching at the alternative high school district in New York City, teaching older students who had previously dropped out of school.
When I joined the district, we were implementing a new curriculum system, which meant I had to create all my curriculum from scratch. I had a block from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., and I had eight months to have 20 students pass the TASC (the new GED-equivalent) test. I taught every subject, from history to English to science, and had one of the highest graduation rates in the district, thanks to a great partnership with YouthBuild that gave students hands-on construction training. I later transitioned into the traditional public school system where I taught and co-taught ninth and 12th grade English, world history and school-designed social-emotional curriculum.
But as much as I liked working with students, I always had wanted to be a writer. I decided I needed more training and experience in the writing world, so, in 2016, I went back to school to earn a Master of Arts in journalism from the University of Missouri. Between 2016-2019 I reported on agriculture, education, arts and culture, law and government, taxes and politics.
I’m always trying to combine my passion for writing and education. As a corps member of Report for America, I’ll be covering K-12 schools in Fargo and Moorhead, specifically looking at school safety, behavioral issues and student mental health. I’m also interested in unique and interesting programs and curriculum in the schools, as well, art, STEM, and diversity initiatives.
Report for America is a national service program that places talented emerging journalists in local newsrooms for one year to report on under-covered topics and communities.
I’m hoping to illuminate the great work teachers and administrators do and present a more holistic look at some of the challenges in our schools to give the community a better understanding of how to find community solutions. I’m interested in longer, more in-depth writing.
I want to hear from teachers and staff, parents, administrations and anyone else involved in the school district. You can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org for story ideas, tips, or information. I look forward to hearing from and working with the community!