March 17, 2021
By Jailain Hollon, Marketing Associate
ExpandED’s Pathways Fellowship seeks to diversify New York City’s teaching workforce by helping aspiring teachers of color prepare for success in the classroom. College juniors and seniors and recent graduates are eligible for the program, which combines mentorship, professional development workshops, and a 10-month paid practicum teaching in afterschool.
This year’s program consists of 30 fellows across three tracks: general education, STEM, or computer science. With several months of mentorship and teaching under their belts, the teaching job offers are coming in. Below you can hear directly from members of the Pathways Class of 2021 about their experiences in the program, their thoughts on why it is important to increase the number of teachers of color, and their goals as teachers of the future.
ExpandED is grateful to the Peter and Carmen Lucia Buck Foundation and Google.org for their generous support of the Pathways Fellowship.
College Status: Senior, Hunter College
Pathways Track: STEM
Job Offer: Teach for America
How did the Pathways Fellowship help you make your career decision?
I had a lot of doubt about going into the teaching profession. ExpandED helped me understand myself and understand my overall purpose, and it helped me mold my philosophy around teaching. I think this ultimately leads to teacher retention and teachers staying in the classroom.
More specifically, teachers of color have a hard time getting their foot in the door because they grew up with the same white female teachers in their schooling experience, so they probably think teaching is not for them. But ExpendED is here to help the community of educators of color. And ultimately, it helps us stay in the classroom.
What are you doing post-fellowship?
I got accepted into Teach For America, and that was in my plans. It’s this remarkable organization with a similar purpose as ExpandED. It focuses specifically on educational equity and serving students with disadvantaged backgrounds, so I can take what I’d learned here at ExpandED and transition into Teach For America and learn all that Teach For America has to offer. Ultimately these experiences will help me become a better teacher and well equipped to serve.
College Status: Senior, Lehman College
Pathways Track: Computer Science
Job Offer: Success Academy
Have you enjoyed the Fellowship?
I love my experience with ExpandED because I got placed in Liberty Avenue Middle School, and I’ve been working as the group leader. I also started doing my student teaching in that school. This was a huge opportunity. ExpandED also partnered me with a mentor, who has been amazing. We met weekly to discuss my application to Success Academy.
Why is it important for people of color to enter teaching?
I like the idea of being a person of color in the education field because I didn’t have that when I was in school. I never saw someone from my background or ethnicity until high school, and that inspired me. Students should see leaders from their backgrounds inspire and motivate them.
College Status: Senior, New York University
Pathways Track: General Education
Job Offer: Lead Teacher at KIPP
Why is it important to have greater diversity in teaching?
I think it means the world because think about how students of color, specifically black students, are punished compared to their white counterparts. The rates of suspension and school punishments are so disproportionate. Often, many of those things come from having teachers and administrators who lack patience for students who don’t look like them and do not understand cultural differences and how we interact with each other.
I think it’s critical to have black teachers and black administrators in the classroom and the school so that those kinds of disconnects don’t happen. Every kind of student, regardless of their race, regardless of their background, can be extended to the same level of grace and understanding, and support.
Would you recommend the Fellowship?
I would encourage any students of color considering a career in education to look into the Pathways Fellowship. There’s so much support that they provide. The opportunities that they give you to get that experience you need to succeed in the classroom are critical. I appreciate having this experience because the pathway fellowship works hard to help make sure that more teachers of color are in the classroom. They work very hard to make sure the teachers of color they bring into the classroom will be exceptional and will do an exceptional job as a teacher. It’s so crucial that you’re not just getting those faces in the classroom but that they are prepared to be excellent when they’re in the classroom.
College Status: Senior, Brooklyn College
Pathways Track: Computer Science
Why the CS Track?
The experience has been very eye-opening and exciting as well. Every Friday morning Steve [Roberts, ExpandEd’s Computer Science facilitator] taught us something new about computer science. But he also taught us how to unplug from the computer and still see the world through computational thinking. You can apply this type of thinking in situations where you’re like, “This didn’t work out. Maybe I can find a different route.”
What did you learn about entering teaching as a person of color?
We have had many seminars about this at Pathways. The program makes us feel empowered. My mentor, Rosa, has been a great guide because I can relate to her. We are both Hispanic, so she has helped me see some opportunities that I can take advantage of being bilingual. In my life, I’ve only met about three to five bilingual teachers. I feel students will feel supported and recognized by someone they can identify with. They will be able to feel empowered and encouraged to continue and say, “Maybe I can be a leader.” I think it’s essential for the education system to bring more multilingual teachers into the classroom.
College Status: Senior, Queens College
Fellowship Track: Computer Science
Post-Fellowship Plans: Master’s Program, University of Pennsylvania
What’s it like teaching computer science?
I teach one afterschool computer science class two days a week. I like teaching the subject. I was not exposed to computer science at a young age, but ExpandED has broken it down for me. You start to understand the relevance and how it can be applied to many different circumstances.
Yesterday I was doing a lesson with my students using the Scratch programming language. It’s really fun. I told the students we were going to do a project to tell the story about a student and his missing homework assignment. We had such a fun time.
College Status: Senior, York College
Pathways Track: STEM
How have you changed through the Fellowship?
I have become more aware of the biases of the education system. I have become more culturally competent, and I have learned things I never knew existed. I hope I’m paying more attention to who was in the classroom versus who wasn’t. I’m paying more attention to my interviews. I’m paying more attention when I tell people that I want to become an educator and am more aware of what is going on in the education system. I’m more of an advocate.
I feel like now we recognize that, “Hey, there is an injustice here.” Some of these websites for different schools are saying, “Here’s our take on the Black Lives Matter movement,” or, “Here’s what we’re doing to educate our teachers more on closing the learning gap.” That’s not something that you would see before. But now you see [the schools’]stances, their statements, and it’s beautiful because people are listening.
Now they’re paying attention, and now applicants are asking what are you doing about it? What is your stance? How are you supporting your students? It’s making me more aware. I’m seeing, and I’m noticing more, and I didn’t feel like that before the Pathways Fellowship experience.
Fara Saint George
College Status: Senior, Medgar Evers
Pathways Track: Computer Science
How has the fellowship helped you? What have you learned through these experiences?
Steve and Kody [Melancon, Director of the Pathways Fellowship] did a good job making sure we were prepared to go into the field, making sure we prepared ourselves and have everything ready.
I like the way Steve taught us how to do computer programing. Kody makes sure everybody attends their workshops and he always sends emails to remind us of what is happening next, what is going on, and what we have to do. I liked the fact that they make it more engaging.