Q&A with Teach For America Corps Member Jesse Acevedo
The Mind Trust’s Teachers on the Mind series highlights teachers who are choosing to serve Indianapolis students at a time when our country is experiencing widespread teacher shortages. These Teach For America (TFA) Indianapolis and TNTP trained educators are excited to empower students in pursuing their goals. The Mind Trust is proud to support these two teacher training organizations for Indianapolis schools.
Jesse Acevedo is a 2022 TFA Corps Member who is teaching integrated chemistry and physics at BELIEVE Circle City High School. While this is Acevedo’s first year as a classroom teacher, he previously served as a tutor and mentor for low-income students prior to joining TFA. Our chat ranged from his reasons for joining TFA this spring to what was most impactful about his summer training.
Q: What led you to joining TFA?
A: I heard about TFA from my old boss at the high school where I worked. I was still looking for a career path in education so I applied for it. She was from Indy and she encouraged me to apply for TFA here in Indianapolis because it’s a big city but it’s not like a Los Angeles, which is where I’m from. I knew I had to be somewhere that has some city life. Indianapolis seems like a best of both worlds place. I can have that big city feel if I want to go downtown but also if I want to just walk in a park or by a lake I can also do that here. I wanted a change of scenery and Indy seemed perfect for that.
Q: Is TFA your first introduction to working in education?
A: TFA is my first time being a classroom teacher. For the past seven years, I worked as a tutor and mentor for low-income high school students helping them to graduate and access the post-graduate opportunities they wanted. I also have a background in teaching dance classes for adults so I have some skills related to teaching, just not in a classroom specifically before TFA.
Q: What are some highlights and challenges from your summer training?
A: The highlight is meeting the people I’ll be spending the year with. My fellow teachers, admin, and other school staff. I really enjoy what BELIEVE Circle City is about. Having no experiences with charter schools before, I didn’t have the best idea of what a charter school could be. But at least where I am at, I think BELIEVE is implementing the kind of program that I believe more of education should be leaning toward in the future.
One challenge has been getting accustomed to the daily life of a teacher. Whether that’s all the online functions I need to learn for taking attendance or memorizing what to do in certain situations based on student behavior. Decorating my room has been another early challenge. I have ideas but I don’t want to let myself down if I can’t make it happen within the first month.
Q: What are some of your early learnings from teacher training this summer at Victory College Prep?
A: I’d say that early learning in the classroom was probably one of the best things about TFA this summer. Everyone in the corps brings a different level of experience. We had support from an experienced teacher. I learned that the skills and confidence I had gained through my nontraditional education experiences really transitioned well to the classroom. For example, I have spent time with students discussing topics and concepts and differentiating my approach based on where students were. If a student was struggling I was able to adjust and support them. Summer training reaffirmed my drive for being a teacher. I recognized that I can do this and I’m not bad at it. I’m not crazy for moving to Indianapolis and doing this career.
Q: How has TFA supported your transition to teaching?
A: The transitional support has been wonderful. They provide a base of $5,000 for all TFA corps members this year for relocation expenses. Since I have extenuating circumstances like driving all the way from California to Indianapolis, they bumped it up to $10,000. That has allowed me to not worry about money as I change careers and move cross-country. I’ve been able to pursue this all out. It took off so much stress that would have been there without that support.
That and definitely Quincy, my coach. He had a similar pathway into teaching as me. We were both thinking about going pre-med and then life happened and we considered teaching and found out that we really liked it. I connected with him on that front. Having a coach who is experienced and has been through similar things to me has been very helpful.
Q: What are you looking forward to most about your first year of teaching?
A: I’m looking forward to building relationships with my students. But also I’m looking forward to getting into the groove of teaching. The more comfortable I get with it the better I’ll be at supporting my students. I’m not expecting to be great a week in but obviously the sooner the better.
Q: What about BELIEVE has stood out to you so far?
A: One of the main things is their nontraditional school week. Monday through Thursday is traditional teaching but Friday is what they call Freedom Fridays. And that’s a time for students to gain hands-on experiences in what interests them. Also, BELIEVE is centered on early college and career development. It isn’t just college or die. BELIEVE recognizes some students want to pursue non-college options after high school that are equally valid. And we’re right next to Ivy Tech, so our freshman are taking college classes through a dual enrollment program.
Q: What would you say to encourage someone else to pursue a career in education?
A: I would say think about the times when you were in class and ask yourself, “How many of those instructors did I identify with?” Growing up, I didn’t have my first male teacher until 8th grade. And all told I only had a Hispanic teacher once in my K-12 experience. That exposure for students at a young age is big. Think about what it would mean for students to see you in the classroom. Think about how the younger you would feel seeing someone like you in the classroom.
I’ve seen certain corps members, like Jesse in particular, being very committed to their development over the summer. When they are in front of students, they display a natural level of comfort. You can step into their classroom and the vibe I get is, “Have they done this before?”Quincy Jones, Manager of Leadership Development, Teach For America Indianapolis
About Teach For America’s Summer Training
Teach For America Indianapolis’ pre-service experience takes place in June and July at Victory College Prep. Their entire corps engages in daily professional development and hands-on classroom instruction. During training, corps members teach in the morning and receive development in the afternoon on topics like classroom management, racial equity and identity exploration, and content-specific instruction.
During summer instruction, TFA coaches develop an ongoing relationship with corps members, engaging them in rapid cycle observation and coaching loops to facilitate corps member growth, prepare them for the first day of school, and accelerate their ability throughout the first 90 days in the classroom. The 2022 TFA Indianapolis Corps is the most diverse in its history with over half of this year’s corps members identifying as people of color.