Shani Jackson is a seventh grade math teacher at Fonville Middle School in Houston, Texas. She took the job at Fonville after working in a variety of nonprofit and for profit organizations including the Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP), a national network of high performing choice schools. The work of KIPP inspired her to enter the classroom and begin working at the most direct level to improve educational opportunities for all students. Shani graduated from Howard University with a bachelors degree in business administration and from Stanford University with a masters degree in business administration.
Click the links below to read Shani's diary entries:
Why I Joined Teach For America
I seek to teach because it is teachers who can transform education. God blessed me with parents able to navigate the Houston, Texas, school system. While 6 a.m. bus rides to places far from my neighborhood schools were inconvenient, the price was relatively low for the quality education I received. In contrast, my cousins attended our neighborhood schools. Post high school, they entered community college and eventually dropped out, overwhelmed by all the remedial classes theyd need to take. My cousins thought if they could graduate from the local high school, surely they were prepared to enter college. They were wrong.
Five years after graduating from high school, I worked in Boston for The Posse Foundation, a scholarship program sending teams of urban high school students to top colleges on full-tuition scholarships. There again I saw the games played for quality education. Boston parents of means put their children in private or parochial school until sixth grade, at which time their children took an entrance exam for the top public schools. Students in private schools acquired the skills and knowledge to score well on the entrance exams and received entry to the top public schools, the three high schools in Boston that actually send the majority of their graduates to college.
I found it ironic. Students with the means to escape the system for six years received a quality education for the next six. Those whod been failed by the education system for six years were subjected to six more years of failure.
Through Posse I met hundreds of talented high school seniors unprepared for college. The students at top public school Boston Latin, even the D students, breezed through college. Students like the valedictorian of a non-exam school (and most other non- exam-school students) struggled through college, spending much of their time in remediation, and eventually dropping out. And the students who even make it to college represent the good news of public education in this country!
I believe my students should know, at a minimum, at least 70 percent of the content on the state test in both math and reading. I know that approximately 50 percent of my students passed their state tests last year, and last years seventh graders had a 42 percent passing rate. Many of those who did pass barely passed. That is not enough. I will be tracking the students' data, having after-school tutorials, building scaffolded lessons, and working in partnership with students and their parents to make sure they succeed. I will help build students' desire to achieve and belief that they can achieve.
I know this first year of teaching will be in some ways a dream come true and in other ways a nightmare. Students wont know things I think they should or do things I think they should. But I also know students will accomplish beyond what I could ever dream for them.