Written by Kirstin P. Campo, First Year AmeriCorps member proudly serving on the Lamar Advertising team at Democracy Prep Baton Rouge.
If someone had asked me a year ago what I would be doing this year, I would have responded with something along the lines of, “Honestly, I’m not 100% sure, but have you heard about City Year?” I had already planned to work in a school setting and was mentally preparing myself for whatever that may entail; what I had not expected was that I would enroll in a two-year graduate program to obtain a Masters in the Art of Teaching.
After obtaining my Bachelors at Louisiana State University, I always thought, I would take a year off to start working and save money before I went on to pursue a Masters or Doctorate. But one day, while working the admissions desk at my student job for LSU, I received an email about a Master’s program that a school in New York, called Relay Graduate School of Education (or Relay GSE), was offering alongside the year I had already promised to City Year. After scanning the email, I noticed two key points that would strongly influence my decision to pursue this program: Relay offered a financial reward equivalent to the Segal award, and my year as an AmeriCorps member would count as my first year in residency. In other words, I could complete half of the MAT program while putting in my hours for City Year. I almost decided that this offer was too good to be true. If I could work with City Year while pursuing a teaching certification and then dedicate a second year of teaching for a Master’s degree, it is like hitting two birds with one stone, right?
Graduate school is something you should take time to seriously consider before jumping into; it requires a lot of time and effort, so make sure you are passionate about teaching if you are considering taking this route. You balance your full-time position as a first-year AmeriCorps member with online classwork to prepare for monthly in-person classes and weekly in-person classes dedicated to practicing lessons. Because I am in the residency program with Relay, I am required to teach classes and film myself for feedback and a grade. The online classwork for my classes includes readings, watching videos on best-practices for teaching, and taking quizzes to check your understanding. Along with the monthly in-person classes, I am enrolled in bi-weekly online secondary ELA classes that require even more online classwork. Outside of these classes, my performance in my school, Democracy Prep, is directly related to my grades; my partner teacher is also my Resident Advisor and assesses my ability to implement classroom management techniques, my level of professionalism, and other teaching strategies.
There is something special about this program partnership between City Year and Relay - the work I’ve completed online for my classes and the lessons I practice for the in-person classes are directly applicable to my work in the classroom every day. I receive constructive feedback on my lesson plans and execution in the classroom on a consistent basis, and this has helped me to become a better teacher for my scholars. As I begin my second semester in Relay’s graduate program, I have begun to find my foothold as a lead-teacher in my class. Compared to the beginning of the year, I have learned how to take the constructive feedback I receive and more effectively implement it into my classroom.
When I first began this program, I seriously underestimated the amount of time and effort that a graduate program required and, honestly, I struggled to balance the demands of City Year and Relay while trying to maintain a personal life. However, it has been truly rewarding to see myself grow as a teacher, a mentor, and an individual. If you are dedicated to pursuing a career in education and you highly value a hands-on learning experience full of practice, I advise you to consider Relay’s MAT program!
Find out more information about the City Year and Relay Graduate School of Education partnership here.