by Timothy Chen, City Year Seattle AmeriCorps Member

My interest in education came about naturally, but was not something I planned. One summer in high school, I spent some time looking for volunteer opportunities. At an early age, I knew math would be my strongest subject in school, so I wanted to find volunteer opportunities relating to math. After days of searching, I came across a non-profit Seattle-based organization called Zeno, which works to inspire young children to love math, and offers summer math camps. At first, I was unsure if working with elementary school children would be the right fit for me, but after spending so much real time in the classroom, I realized I quite enjoyed the experience. However, I was still unsure if education would be my calling.

At my high school, The Center School, all seniors are required to complete a social justice project to graduate. After my experience with Zeno, I wanted to find out more about education, so I decided to investigate the math education gap between diverse and non-diverse elementary school students in Seattle. I spent the first half of my senior year researching and found school boundaries in Seattle Public Schools which contributed to segregation, an economic divide in certain areas, and an uneven distribution of resources to be the biggest contributors towards the math education gap in Seattle. To take an active role in helping close the education gap, I spent the second half of my senior year volunteering at the Beacon Hill International School, a diverse elementary school with a handful of low-income students. I worked in a math classroom to provide support. The social justice project turned out to be a life-changing experience. Most importantly, I realized education, teaching, and working with diverse and low-income students would be the pathway I choose to walk down in life.

I dream of teaching math in under-resourced schools, and working with City Year Seattle will help me gain a deeper understanding of real challenges students face. Being able to analyze student thinking and learning more about them will help me better connect with my students. In addition, working closely with teachers will be an enriching experience because I will be able to learn so much from their expertise. The professional development, training, and connections I will make as a City Year Seattle AmeriCorps member will be very valuable to my future career as a teacher.

Growing up in a low-income family, with parents who emigrated from China and never went to college, the odds I would graduate from high school or college were against me. I feel very fortunate to have been able to come across amazing people who greatly impacted my life as teachers, professors, family, and friends I met along the way to help me through all my challenges. If I could go back in time, I would not change anything because those experiences helped shape me into the person I am today. It’s not a coincidence I ended up in education, as I have a desire to give back to those in the same position as me. I am most excited about finally being able to go out into the world, make a difference, and do what I love doing the most. The biggest impact I hope to make at City Year Seattle is on the students, by providing myself as a resource and role model, and having them feel they can truly do anything they set their minds to, because there will always be people out there to help them along the way.

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