Thursday, July 24, 2014

Spring Branch Welcomes 28 New Teach For America Teachers

On Aug. 25, Spring Branch ISD will welcome 28 new Teach for America (TFA) educators to its schools. This marks the fourth consecutive year that recent university graduates with the nonprofit group have joined the district’s teaching faculty. 

The new Teach for America recruits include 13 elementary teachers, 10 middle school instructors, and four new high school teachers. These educators earned degrees at colleges and universities big and small, public and private, and from all corners of the nation. 

Joining SBISD from the Midwest is Wisconsin native Allyson Voss, who grew up near the north woods of Wausau, Wis. She will teach a fourth-grade bilingual classroom at Shadow Oaks Elementary this fall.

This 2013 graduate of Gustavus Adolphus College, a small, private liberal arts college in St. Peter, Minn., spent the past year teaching high school in the northern Spanish port city of Santander.

Allyson, who tripled majored in Spanish, sociology and anthropology in college, is a huge fan of bilingual education and travel. She has met both goals early.

She interviewed at the school two years ago, and then found an opening as her time in Spain came to a close. In late July, she visited with the school staff, all of whom made her feel happy about her teaching assignment.

“Everyone I met was inspired and excited about new ideas and perspectives. I’m excited and looking ahead to meeting my students. I want to ignite the passion in them for being lifelong learners,” she says.

“I’m going into bilingual education with the idea that it may be a life’s passion for me. But I plan to take each day by day, and see where it leads.”

Teach For America is a nonprofit organization that enlists high-achieving recent college graduates and professionals to teach in low-income or under-served schools with significant gaps in student achievement for a two-year period. 

Many of the TFA educators join the organization because they strongly believe in its mission to create quality education for all students, no matter their background.

“I chose TFA because I was very passionate about it is goals. I think equality in education is a vehicle by which individuals will be able to pursue other avenues,” incoming Northbrook High School Science teacher Albert Ahn said. 

Albert graduated in May of 2013 from the University of Pennsylvania, an Ivy League school, with undergraduate degrees in biology and political science. He had planned to go into medicine, but after realizing his passion for equal education, decided that teaching would be a better option.

"I am passionate about impacting the lives of the underprivileged and helping narrow the education gap. I pursued education not as an alternative to medicine but because it provides a unique opportunity at this critical juncture to assist those in need in a rigorous, challenging, and life-changing way," Albert said. 

Raised in Dallas, Albert attended both public and private schools which gave him a unique perspective on education.

“I didn't go to all the fancy middle or high schools but I ended up going to an Ivy League college and my experiences there were unlike prior ones. I was lucky I guess, because I got to see two very different sides.”

“I hope to find a way to incorporate that into my classroom,” he adds. 

Albert Ahn, Ambila Bobmanuel, Allyson Voss and Ebony Moore (left to right)

Houston local Ambila Bobmanuel graduated in May from Rice University with a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a minor in mathematics.

At Rice, this full scholarship winner found a personal passion for math, which she hopes to share with Algebra I students at Spring Woods High School. A Katy ISD graduate, she credits teachers and school counselors at Morton Ranch High School with helping her win the Rice scholarship, which was critical to her higher education goals.

“Education was always important and emphasized in my family. I took AP classes in high school as a way to give me as many options as possible. I went to Rice for the school itself, and for the scholarship,” she says. “I could not have gone on to a college without scholarship aid.”

At Rice, Ambi as she is known, studied the things that she was interested in. “I found there that I really liked math. It has an order to it, and then I found that I wanted to show others how awesome it can be, too.”

Her interest in teaching was nurtured at Rice by her experiences with other students as a peer academic adviser.

She likes Teach for America’s core value of making an excellent education open to all students. “I’m grateful to be with Spring Branch because this school district has the same commitment to their students,” she adds.

While most of the TFA educators recently earned their bachelors degree, some are coming to the District with additional diplomas. 

Ebony Moore finished a master of arts in English program at Washington State University in Pullman, Wash., in May of 2013, She earned her undergraduate degree in English from Alcorn State University in Lorman, Miss. 

She will be teaching English at Spring Woods Middle School. 

Ebony became interested in writing during her junior year of high school in Holly Springs, Miss., after having a really great and inspirational teacher during her junior year. However, it wasn't until graduate school that she became interested in teaching.   

“I didn't begin to seriously consider teaching until I got to grad school and was hired as a teaching assistant for an undergraduate class in the English department. I made all of the lesson plans, graded the tests, held office hours, etc., and ended up really enjoying it,” she said. 

Ebony is looking to forward to learning a lot of different things, but mostly wants to see growth in her students. 

“I hope to see not just academic growth, but also personal growth in my students. To me, it is important that those students who come in not confident at all in themselves  leave not ashamed of what they want and fully aware of what they are capable of accomplishing,” Ebony adds. 

New teachers joining SBISD for the 2014-15 school year through the TFA program include:

Samone Ballard, University of Texas, Pine Shadows Elementary
Rebecca Elliott, Loyola University, Westwood Elementary School
Luis Garcia Rico, University of Southern California, Shadow Oaks Elementary School
Carlee Goble, University of Washington, Thornwood Elementary School
Kasfia Islam, University of Texas, Shadow Oaks Elementary School
Jacqualyn Jones, University of Houston, Shadow Oaks Elementary School
Sandra Orellana, University of California, Pine Shadows Elementary School
Olivia Schreiber, Grove City College, Shadow Oaks Elementary School
Kamilah Smith, Mount Holyoke College, Shadow Oaks Elementary School
Allyson Voss, Gustavus Adolphus College, Shadow Oaks Elementary School
Flora Torres Vaquedano, Sam Houston State University, Treasure Forest Elementary
Alan Mauricio DeLeon, University of Texas, Assignment Pending
Jennifer Weisheimer Roberts, Hamilton College, Assignment Pending

Middle School:
Mary Kelly, University of Pennsylvania, Spring Oaks Middle School
Maggie Lawrence, Trinity University, Northbrook Middle School
Brendan Laws, University of Houston, Spring Oaks Middle School
Juan Loera Alonso, Texas A&M University, Spring Oaks Middle School
Shiouyu Lou, Georgetown University, Landrum Middle School
Ebony Moore, Washington State University, Spring Woods Middle School
Jessica Richardson, Alabama A&M University, Spring Oaks Middle School
Natalia Rivera, Texas A&M University, Northbrook Middle School
Alexandra Soisson, University of Notre Dame, Landrum Middle School
Jamecia Crenshaw, Auburn University, Northbrook Middle School

High School:
Albert Ahn, University of Pennsylvania, Northbrook High School
Ambila Bobmanuel, Rice University, Spring Woods High School
Kirk Cochran, Mississippi State University, Spring Woods High School
Natalie Dressman, Brigham Young University, Northbrook High School

Maryam Ogunkoya, University of Houston-Downtown, Westchester Academy for International Studies

This story was written and compiled by Communications Dept. Intern Kali Venable. 


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