Unprecedented. It’s a term we’ve all heard often throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, but it really sums up what I know the past year has been like for teachers and students alike. Pivoting to virtual. Hybrid learning. Technical issues. Learning loss. On top of all that is the urgent need to address teacher burnout and the shortage of teachers in the public education system in the U.S.
I’m continually impressed by the stories of resiliency, creativity and dedication I hear about when it comes to educating the next generation of leaders. This week is Teacher Appreciation Week, so it’s a great time to celebrate and thank a teacher in your life.
Dedicated to Serve
City Year is a nonprofit organization that prides itself on helping students and schools in the United States and through its international affiliates in the United Kingdom and South Africa. The organization, along with the talent of its AmeriCorps members in the U.S. and volunteer mentors abroad, focuses on supporting students and schools, developing civic leaders and contributing their expertise to broader conversations about equitable access to education. I am proud of the Vertex Foundation’s partnership with City Year and our shared belief that students in our communities deserve the opportunity to reach their academic potential. And, we share City Year’s passion for making a meaningful difference in the lives of the students, teachers and schools they serve.
One thing we know about education during this pandemic is that many students are falling behind, and according to a McKinsey analysis, students of color are faring worse. Black and Hispanic students are more likely to be learning remotely and less likely to have live access to teachers.
In the midst of a pandemic and the learning losses that are happening as a result, the work by City Year to support students and teachers is more important than ever. Their commitment to serve did not stop, and as they approached the new school year last fall, they focused on building resources, tools and supports to enable their work to be effective where learning was happening (in school, online via distance learning or a hybrid model). City Year AmeriCorps members have helped students adjust to new online learning platforms, strengthen their academic, emotional and social skills, like teamwork, and keep them connected to their school community. They are supporting more than 51 school districts in the U.S. through learning sessions done in-person with social distancing or through hybrid learning instruction and/or virtual learning instruction for students at more than 300 schools. By centering the students and their experiences, City Year AmeriCorps members are playing a critical role in helping to support learning recovery and keeping students engaged in their learning.
Building Teacher Pathways for Public Schools
There’s a need to develop a diverse and culturally competent teacher workforce to meet the growing social, emotional and academic demands students face, particularly those from systemically underserved and underresourced communities. This reality is another challenge that City Year is uniquely positioned to help address, and they’ve built a tutor-to-teacher pathway that seeks to increase teacher diversity and prepare teachers for careers in education. This program is addressing a very tangible need in the Boston school system — to build and maintain more equitable learning environments by developing in house talent ecosystems that recruit, train and retain diverse and qualified educators.
This teacher pathways program is an innovative partnership among Boston Public Schools, the University of Massachusetts Boston and City Year that expands opportunities for AmeriCorps members and recent graduates who have an interest in pursuing teaching as a full-time career. As a National Partner, the Foundation was the first organization to support this program, sponsoring two schools for the 2019-2020 academic year.
One of the key aspects of the program is that it provides additional service experience while making a graduate degree more affordable. Both experience and education help prepare participants for full-time teaching positions that will allow them to educate children across the globe. In last year’s pilot, 100% of the graduates rated the program as being highly effective in preparing them to be classroom teachers.
Spotlight: Alex G., Teaching Pathways Fellow ‘21
“I’m a huge math nerd, and I’ve always wanted to be a math teacher. I applied to other teaching programs, but what really drove me to City Year were the great supports I knew I’d get here: the hands-on observation and coaching in the classroom; training from staff who themselves were former educators; being on a team with other AmeriCorps members so we could learn and grow together.”