In July 2017, Kelly Gavin Zuckerman, Program Coordinator/Advisor/and Lecturer, spoke with Paola Bernal, Bryn Mawr College Class of 2017, about her post-graduation plans.
What is next for you?
I am going to be a fifth grade US history teacher at KIPP, a charter school.
How did you decide on KIPP as a home for this next step?
This past summer and the summer after my freshman year I worked for Breakthrough Houston, the teaching fellowship. This past summer, they opened up a site in Houston for students who go to charter schools. At this site, we were helping KIPP students and I worked at a KIPP school. When the program ended, the Vice Principal had come up to us and had said that she really had loved what we had done with the students and the enthusiasm and that if we would be interested in a position that we should apply and she would love to give us an interview.
What excites you most about this next step?
The KIPP school that I am working at is located in a predominately immigrant community—the real Ellis Island of it all and there are a lot of cultures that I don’t know about yet, that I have to familiarize myself with and I feel that this one-year contract that I have now here not only is it a learning experience for my students, but also for me. It is more than a job. I feel that I am going back to school.
How do you think your education studies will inform your work at KIPP?
Right now, I have my first unit plan due August 9th and currently I am reviewing documents and I keep imagining, “Okay, what is my classroom going to look like?” because that is the most important thing. That sets the tone. That sets the space. I just kept remembering when I took my first education class, it was a 360 course with Jody Cohen where we were seated in an open circle and we were all looking at one another. For me, when I walked into my first education course, I was like, ‘Okay, this is different’ and even the way that we were participating in class, it was just more welcoming and genuine and that, for me, was it. I’m excited to create that for my students.
What is a favorite memory of your time in the Education Program?
I really appreciated talking with Alice Lesnick. I took Critical Issues with her and there is this one part of the semester where we had to teach the class and we came up with the topic, so something that we haven’t discussed or something that we should go further into. My group created kind of a Monopoly or LIFE board game for our peers. It was kind of like “if you landed on this take three steps back because you were running late since you had to catch the bus to school, so you didn’t have breakfast and you have an SAT Prep and soccer practice”— stuff that really happens for students that some of us might be aware of and some us might not be aware of. We just had a huge discussion about how there are things that are out there that are beyond students’ control and how we advocate for students. How do we keep being educators ourselves when we know that there is only so much that we can do?
What advice do you have for current students?
I think in regards to the Education Department, I would say really talk to your professors. I really loved the kindness and how much care the professors have. Their care is genuine and they do not just care about how you are doing in their course, but they care about how you are doing in the Bi-Co. This is why they went into education, to see it all play out. And in regards to the students, I would say to make sure and be a part of different Praxis courses at different sites. We have all of these opportunities to interact with students and teachers in public schools, private schools, in an after school program, at Thorne. It creates a biased perspective if we are only working with one group of people.