Kudos to Leah Tribbett (Denver, '15, Boston '16). She is an Associate Teacher with GT partner, Edward Brooke Charter School, in Boston.
Why have you decided to teach?
LEAH: I’ve wanted to teach for as long as I can remember; teaching was the first career I had in mind after pirate and Indiana Jones back in elementary school. At first, teaching was mostly about sharing my love of reading with as many people as possible and cultivating a space where unbelievable discussions centered on books could happen, but the focus shifted a little bit as I got older. It’s still about my love of books, but it’s also about providing an often untold perspective to my kids, and acting as a mirror for kids who’ve never had one before. Education isn’t a field that’s overflowing with Natives, and being able to provide that voice is just as powerful as diving into chapter ten of The Giver.
What subject(s) and grade(s) are you teaching?
LEAH: I’m the sixth grade ELA and Social Studies Associate Teacher (AT), so most of my teaching happens in the sixth grade classroom. One of the best things about Brooke’s AT program, though, is that I not only get to work with all of the middle school, but also kindergarten, third grade, and fifth grade.
Why did you choose this program?
LEAH: I choose Brooke because their actions match their vision, and that vision aligns with my own. The cementing factor, though, was going in for my interview and feeling such a strong sense of joy and community throughout the entire school. As an AT, I have an incredible amount of support; I have daily debriefs and feedback sessions with my mentor teacher and frequent check-ins with my instructional leader (my principal). Brooke is also incredibly dedicated to feedback and growth, so I’m able to reach out to any other teacher with questions or for feedback.
What are you most excited about?
LEAH: I was—and still am—most excited about the kids. I’m definitely biased, but my kids are some of the best; they’re incredibly energetic and engaged and always up for a challenge. It might sound cliché, but it doesn’t feel like work when I get to go in everyday and connect with such an amazing group of kids.
What is your favorite memory from the summer?
LEAH: My favorite memory with GT is, within the first week, watching my kids come up with our club chant. It was something they created entirely on their own, and it was incredible, watching them get so invested in peers they hadn’t known for even a week. It was also ridiculously catchy, and I can still recite it, word for word, today. A runner-up are the two Fridays that my reading classes talked about conflict through the lens of racial identity; it was a really powerful discussion, and one led entirely by my kids, and I still use bits of that class to inform the way I teach today.
What did you learn from the job process? Do you have any advice for others who may be entering the classroom soon?
LEAH: One of the things that stuck out to me the most from the job process were the similarities between schools and districts; I was always asked to answer scenario questions, and I was always asked to either submit a sample teaching video or teach a demo lesson. The formats varied—between video and phone interviews—but the questions were pretty standard. The biggest variation came through the timelines; charter schools post their openings earlier than districts, and districts often have a pre-screening process before you can apply for school-specific jobs (Denver’s is a phone call; NYC’s is a series of essays; and DC’s is a sample teaching video).
Do you have any advice for your TF colleagues?
The biggest piece of advice that I can offer is to visit as many schools as possible; schools are looking for teachers that fit well with their mold, but you need to make sure that any school you choose fits you just as well. I’d suggest having a list of things that you need from a school—whether you’re looking for a contained middle school model, or a school that offers teacher leadership positions, or a school that involves their families and the outside community as often as possible—and seeking out schools that fit that list, and visiting them during the school day. I had a handful of schools whose offers I turned down because, even though on paper they worked, in person, I couldn’t feel a sense of connection, and that’s such an important facet in finding the right school for you.