As a Teach For America corps member, I developed most of my plans during my first two years teaching at a highly challenging alternative charter high school that serviced the most at-risk students from the most at-risk schools in south San Antonio. Teaching in an accelerated program meant that no time could be wasted, and students had to push themselves to close massive gaps in half the time (a full year of credit was awarded in 18 weeks). Almost all of my students struggled with immense life challenges that distracted them from school and challenged their motivation. Most of them were reading and writing at elementary-school levels. The year before I came, our pass rates on the Texas state exam, STAAR, were in single digits for reading and writing. By the fall of my second year, my student's scores rose to 70% passing. In addition, a large number of my students have proven their reading, writing, and critical thinking skills in advanced analytical essays that develop interesting, original arguments and use textual evidence and organized paragraphing to support their thesis statements. I owe a great deal of my success to the plans I am contributing to this site.
My teaching centers on primary goal of quickly closing large achievement gaps in reading and writing by scaffolding through challenging close-reading and analytical writing exercises. All of my texts are at grade-level or above for sophomores and juniors, but my plans walk students through texts slowly to achieve maximal depth of analysis and synthesis of ideas. All my units are built around thematic questions and literary focus questions that are important not only to the text, but also to student's development of identity, conscience, and social awareness. The chosen texts pace the lessons, and thematic questions and analytical reading skills are spiraled as more responsibility is placed on students. Each 3-4 week unit ends with an essay, usually analytical, that synthesizes the student's thinking throughout the unit and raises it to a higher level.
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My primary and secondary schooling occurred in a high-achieving public school very different from the ones I've taught in. This has given me a strong perspective on the ideal students are to be held to in their learning. I studied English and Philosophy at Cornell University, receiving a 3.9 GPA and a 3.94 in my majors. I believe this background has helped me maintain a high level of intellectual rigor in my classroom despite my students' compromising circumstances.
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