Saturday, March 23, 2013

Why DC?

Written by: Claire Steinbeck, 2010 DC Teaching Fellow, special education teacher at DC Prep 

Editor's Note: We are so excited to share more about what makes Washington,DC an amazing place to both teach and live! Currently, TNTP is recruiting teachers for other cities as well. We encourage you to learn more about Charlotte, NC or Atlanta, GA and strongly encourage applying to those programs as well as they still have openings in all subject areas!

When I applied for DC Teaching Fellows in 2010 I was aware of only a handful of TNTP’s Teaching Fellows programs. Little did I know that since 2000, TNTP has recruited and trained more than 26,000 talented teachers for high-need schools in 14 Teaching Fellows sites nationwide. So, what’s a prospective fellow to do when selecting regional preferences on their application? 

Here are just a few things that make teaching in the nation’s capital as a DC Teaching Fellow uniquely appealing:

  •     While DC is a fun place to live, there are plenty of serious reasons to come teach in DC. Most importantly, DC’s students need you! DC students have made academic gains in recent years (scores on the District annual standardized assessment are at a five-year high for District students), but overall 2012 results showed that fewer than half of DC students are performing on their grade level in Reading and Math. While this is a sobering fact, many DC educators work with what DC Prep calls “optimistic determination” to constantly improve results for children. Schools like DC Prep (the highest-performing network of public charter schools citywide and where I currently teach) are showing what’s possible by raising student achievement in traditionally underserved neighborhoods of DC, bridging the educational divide in Washington. Progress is happening – join us!

  • At DC Prep and at my former DCPS school, even first year educators are recognized and rewarded for excellent results in the classroom, including merit-based pay raises and additional leadership opportunities. I feel acknowledged and valued for my achievements with my students, and I get frequent opportunities to utilize my strengths to expand my impact. For example, at DC Prep I’ve been able to serve on my school’s student support team, where I help my school’s leadership team to brainstorm academic and social skill supports for students in need of extra help.
  •    In DC, there are many opportunities outside of the classroom to participate in broader education policy conversations with some of the best and brightest in the field. I’ve shared my experience at focus groups held by the Education Trust , attended panel discussions and workshops held by TeachPlus , and networked with other education professionals through Young Education Professionals’ activeDC chapter , to name a few. 

  •  DC teachers are held to a very high standard through rigorous evaluation tools (such as DCPS’ IMPACT rubric). While it’s true that these evaluation tools can be intimidating to a new teacher, these high standards and clear expectations have helped me to accurately evaluate my strengths and growth areas. As a result, I am constantly improving as an educator. In DC, high expectations are coupled with high levels of professional support. For example, at DC Prep every teacher meets with a school leader for one-on-one coaching several times a month, so I get individualized support and feedback regularly. These kinds of supports are offered in addition to the support you’ll receive from DC Teaching Fellows and TNTP Academy.

  •  At DC Prep, I work with talented and dedicated colleagues who are always willing to help each other out.  I meet with other teachers in my grade level weekly to co-plan lessons, analyze students’ academic data, discuss upcoming events, and problem solve around individual student concerns. DC schools attract educators who are passionate about helping students succeed and eager to collaborate in order to share ideas or resources. DCPS teachers even have the option of spending a work day observing expert teachers in their content area through the Teaching in Action program or watching videos of exemplary lessons online. During my second year in DCPS, I moved from teaching 4th-6th graders into my school’s first ever early childhood class for students with autism – a big difference in age group and academic content! Observing an excellent, experienced teacher at another school helped me get an idea of how to set up my classroom and my students’ daily schedule. 

  • There’s truly “something for everyone” in Washington, DC. In one relatively small city, we have dozens of unique neighborhoods. Each has their own feel thanks to historical and cultural attractions, thriving local businesses, and traditional events. In my neighborhood, there’s a family-owned coffee shop, library, farmer’s market, two Metro stations, and countless restaurants – all within walking distance. Where will you live, work, and play? Thanks to public transit, bike-friendly streets, and walkable neighborhoods, it’s easy to explore all corners of DC. Check out the Washington City Paper , Cultural Tourism DC, or Washingtonian Magazine for a glimpse into all of the culture and personality that DC has to offer.

  •  DC’s tourist attractions aren’t just for visitors! Where else in the country are there not one but dozens of FREE museums (the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History Museum is my favorite) and other cultural landmarks (you must check out the monuments lit up after dark!) to visit in your spare time? I’ve lived here for 4 years and still have plenty of “must see” places to visit when I have the chance. The National Building Museum is next on my list! 
  •  I’m biased but…. DC has amazing students and families! Great kids (like this one – a Kindergarten DC Preppie I’ve worked with closely this year) are waiting to learn from, and build relationships with, talented educators just like you. Apply to DC Teaching Fellows today – March 25th is the next deadline for the upcoming school year!