The one thing most participants in HISD’s Alternative Certification Program have in common is that they did not originally plan to pursue a career in education. However, the desire to be a positive influence on children and the greater Houston community eventually brought them to the classroom, and to HISD.
Recently, we sat down with Cory Bates, a bilingual Pre-K teacher at Stevens Elementary School, and Adeeb Barqawi, a physics teacher at Kashmere High School, to reflect on their experiences in the district’s Alternative Certification Program, also known as the Effective Teacher Fellowship (ETF), and why they feel HISD’s program is superior to others. The deadline to apply to the next Effective Teacher Fellowship cohort is Saturday, Jan. 31, 2015.
What first brought you to teaching?
Cory: When I was in high school, I was homeless for almost half a year. Though I was not up-front about my situation at the time, there were teachers who were aware of it and they motivated me to keep my grades high so I could go to college and make a life for myself. They helped me maintain focus, despite my situation, and I became a teacher to “pay it forward.” There are thousands of kids in HISD who need someone to show them this kind of love and appreciation. And I hope to be that teacher.
Adeeb: What drew me were the injustices that exist within the public education system. I graduated with a degree in science and worked for a pharmaceutical company. I was about to start medical school and visited my brother, who was in Teach For America. I really saw the connection between education and health and how the disparities are connected to healthcare and social problems. I really did not feel that I had the tools or the traits to enter the medical field and I wanted a meaningful experience. Now, I’m a third-year teacher, and I have dedicated my life to education.
How has being in an alternative certification program benefitted you as a teacher?
Cory: It has shown me the best ways to grow my practice and skills. Many teachers degreed in education lack the support and current educational practices that one gains from an Alternative Certification Program. That being said, not all programs are alike. The ETF is above all others. I have seen other teachers finish HISD’s program and be successful, and I have also seen teachers in other programs struggle tremendously their first year because they lacked the support they needed.
Adeeb: One difference is support. It’s really empowering. I did not feel that my coach was checking things off a list of requirements. That enabled me to be growth-oriented and data-driven when it comes to my instruction, to look at my kids and see how the things I’m doing affect them. It’s also challenged me to reach for resources outside the classroom.