It was my first day of the student teaching portion of the UCLA IMPACT (Inspiring Minds through a Professional Alliance of Community Teachers) and my mentor teacher was introducing me to other educators in my residency school. While the introduction seems minute, hearing her say the words “teacher” and not “student teacher” or “fellow” made my heart skip a beat.
Partnering with Center for Powerful Public Schools and Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), IMPACT is a UCLA Graduate School of Education and Information Studies program that prepares new teachers through a “medical model” of teacher residency. The focus of the teacher candidate preparation takes place in the field with a partner teacher who provides coaching and guidance.
That year, I learned think-pair-share, student-centered vs. teacher-centered, and other strategies that made me more marketable in LAUSD when looking for a job. I was also exposed to all aspects of teaching such as the importance of getting to know all of the people you work with including classified, custodial, and technology staff.
I learned that by having good connections, you keep yourself informed about your students—some who may be experiencing homelessness and/other difficulties at home.
Fast forward four years later and I find myself saying, “Meet Christelle Rocha, a new teacher at our school.”
As a UCLA IMPACT partner teacher, I find myself being challenged in a different way. My UCLA IMPACT fellow has had moments of frustration because the advice she hears can seem contradictory. This has pushed me to articulate the strategies that I implement in the classroom. Through the mentorship process, I have also had good reflective conversations with my fellow and she has been able to give me feedback turning this into a reciprocal learning experience.
‘Meet Christelle Rocha, a New Teacher at Our School’
My mentor teacher, Jeraldy Vega, introduced me to staff around my new school placement. I have been waiting for this moment for quite some time. I knew I wanted to be a part of the IMPACT program even before transferring to UCLA.
UCLA IMPACT is committed to rigor, social justice and STEAM. It allows students to work closely with a mentor and take classes with some of the most well-published professors in their fields. Social justice and equity have been the main topics of every assignment and activity. I am constantly challenged to create interdisciplinary lessons that push students to see math in a new light.
The teacher residency has exposed me to the harsh realities of public school teaching.
However, the measurable learning outcomes in my courses are not what have prepared me for my first year of teaching. The teacher residency has exposed me to the harsh realities of public school teaching. Between the pressure of administrators, feeling that your students deserve 100 percent of your best self 100 percent of the time and managing the laundry list of menial tasks imposed on teachers, it’s difficult to feel that you’re enough.
Fortunately, Jeraldy, my partner teacher, offered her wisdom and guidance on how to set realistic goals for myself as a teacher both in and out of the classroom. She showed me how to reach out for help, be it another teacher, a parent, counselor or administrator.
Meeting and building relationships with the students, some of whom have socio-emotional needs beyond my capacity to meet, has forced me to grow in ways that a program brochure could never describe. Through a combination of trial and error and self-reflection, I have begun the development of my teacher identity, which I have learned is a life-long process.