Teach For America Q&A with Diane Crenshaw
Undergrad Institution: Mount Holyoke College, MA
1) How did you decide to apply to Teach for America?
I decided to apply to Teach for America because I saw it as a way to combine my skills and interests to confront social injustices in my home country. I was a physics major and Latin American studies minor, and have always been very involved with activism and politics. Teach for America seemed like the perfect route to my career and life goal of working toward a better world. As a teacher in a low-income school, I will directly impact each of my students, and give them the skills and confidence to fight discrimination.
2) What do you like most about teaching? ...like least?
What I like most about teaching is that you have to constantly think critically and creatively to get the message across to each of your students. It's a hard job, but extremely rewarding. It feels incredible when my students demonstrate that they have processed the material or solved a difficult problem using the skills that I gave them. The job is fun, too. Everyday is different and never boring.
What I like least about teaching is probably the hours. I waking up at 5:30am and working until night is not easy. You'd think that teachers had the afternoons off, but no. There's always lessons to write, activities to plan, and homework to be graded.
3) What kinds of things did you like to do within your SPS chapter? Is their a connection between your SPS activities and your decision to join Teach for America?
My favorite SPS activities were our outreach projects, and that definitely contributed to my decision to join Teach for America. Since my first year of college I had participated in outreach projects with SPS, but I wanted to take it to another level. When I became president of SPS I rethought our SPS mission, and put a great emphasis on outreach. To give back to the community, we worked with many schools in Western Massachusetts. I worked closely with our lab tech, Len, who always had great ideas for demos and activities. One time I brought air pressure rockets to a "Girls in Science" program to introduce third grade girls to physics. Another time we invited 100 high schoolers from a minority neighborhood to Mount Holyoke and ran a demo session for them explaining the story of whether. I think my favorite memory was being asked for my autograph by third graders after serving as a guest scientist! That just showed that going into the community and teaching physics has a great impact on students' lives. So, now I'm a part of TFA doing what I love best, teaching.
4) Who are your favorite teachers, and what did they do to achieve that status?
My favorite high school teacher was Mr. Winterschiedt. He taught my chemistry, AP chemistry, and physics (the impact he had on my life is just another indicator of the power of teaching!). Anyway, he was my favorite teacher because he pushed his students, and he had a plan. He knew what it would take to make us strong scientists, and held us to high expectations. He also showed us the joys of science. His class was so fun that classroom management was never a problem- everyone was completely engaged in his lessons! Mr. Winterschiedt also had a great personality, which came out in his classroom. We had all kinds of weird traditions, like the wall of fame, dancing hamsters, and viewer mail. It was great.
5) What would you say is an important consideration or piece of advice that you would give other SPS members who are thinking about applying to Teach for America?
I would recommend that other SPS members interested in TFA should get involved with outreach and tutoring, and also examine their life goals. If you find that you love teaching and feel an urgency to make our country a more just place, then TFA is for you. Just be sure that you can handle the long hours!