Two years ago I drafted a post entitled “MfA and its Impact on My Career.” I knew at the time that I had a lot to say, but I could only compose one sentence, a thesis of sorts: MfA has spurred my professional growth and connection with like-minded educators. I revisited the draft many times since then with the hopes of publishing it, but never did. In fact, I wasn’t even able to add a second sentence, let alone complete a paragraph. Every time I wanted to, it seemed far too challenging to articulate what MfA meant to my career.
Fast forward to the present. With the start of a new school year, Math for America has outlined a campaign for its corps of teachers to share why they are proud to be a MfA teacher. Given this, the time is ripe for me to finish that initial draft and showcase my relationship with MfA. Besides, I’m long overdue.
I’ve hinted at this proclamation before; other than deciding to become a teacher, MfA is hands-down the best professional decision I’ve ever made.
For many teachers, including myself, MfA is a dream come true. Seriously, I’m still waiting to wake up. When you realize the woefully complex system in which we operate and contrast it with the die-hard passion for teaching that all MfA teachers possess, MfA is a breath of fresh air. I have met MfA teachers that have cried when discussing their relationship with Math for America. I can relate. Math for America changes careers in unforgettable ways.
When I think about it, MfA’s success doesn’t hinge on anything that’s all that extraordinary. They do something simple, really well: honor teachers. Period. Positively impacting teaching and learning in today’s cutthroat educational climate isn’t like brain surgery. MfA figured this out long ago…and it’s the root of my pride in being a Math for America teacher.
On the most fundamental level, they do this by providing community, structure, and a space where teachers can exchange ideas and resources, all the while feeling valued and trusted. MfA’s teacher-organized, teacher-designed, teacher-led workshops have transformed my classroom to a risk-taking laboratory. I’m constantly working with the best STEM educators in New York City and, I would argue, the country. In addition, I’ve been called on to lead colleagues like never before, which has helped me extend the arm, and mission, of MfA to empower my colleagues. I have also been fully funded to attend a conference. I have a paid membership to NCTM. And though nowhere near an expert, I have even been asked to speak at a research-based institute.
I’m also distinctly proud of the little ways I’ve been able to give back to MfA. To contribute to such an outstanding community (the gold standard in teacher development, if you ask me), means so much to me. Over the years, a certain responsibility has surfaced within me to help maintain the integrity of what MfA stands for and help it evolve over time. Best of all, I know that I still have so much more to give.
But, most of all, my pride shines every time I walk out of a MfA workshop at 7:30pm on a school night. During these moments, I am reminded that my job is a top priority, that I make all other professions possible. I am reminded that I am not an island unto myself. I am reminded why I never want to be an administrator. I am reminded that my students’ futures depend on my continuous development. I am reminded that I am a learner first, a teacher second.
I am reminded of why I am a teacher.