Reagan Hass is a second-year educator in the Teach For America program, which is a national nonprofit organization that places educators in teaching roles within low-income communities. Hass, a Muskogee native and 2007 Oklahoma State University graduate, is an intervention specialist at Frederick A. Douglass Mid-High School.
I had heard about Teach For America through a friend of a friend when I was in high school, and it sounded like something I would be interested in. I researched the program a bit in college and knew that it was something I wanted to do. I worked for an inner-city basketball camp in Missouri called Kids Across America, and I fell in love with that job and the kids I worked with. It was great working with them in the summer, but I could tell they were behind academically. I wanted a way to work with them to get them on par with other students.
When I began working at Douglass, I knew my students would be very far behind. I’d worked with urban students before, and you hear about the achievement gap, so I knew there was a problem, obviously, but I had no idea that it would be so difficult to deal with how far behind the (students) were emotionally. Before it was statistics: It was a ninth grader that would be on a third grade reading level, that wouldn’t know multiplication tables. But then they become students I love, and I know what their dreams and goals are. I know how smart they are, but they are so far behind. I have great resources. There are great veteran teachers at Douglass and great resources from TFA, but it’s difficult knowing that the students grew several years in math and are that much closer to grade, but they have so far to go.
My first year with Teach For America, I co-taught a two-hour remedial algebra course for students that had failed eighth grade math tests. Most have a track record of failing tests since they’ve begun testing. You could tell in their attitude toward math that they didn’t like it – they were very vocal about it. We keep statistics that showed each student’s growth at the end of the year. We showed each student, individually, their rate of growth over the year, and each of their jaws dropped at how much they grew. For once, they were successful in math. That’s a great feeling to see you’re successful at something you’ve struggled with.
It can be a tough job, a lot of long nights, but if you don’t know how to teach something, there is someone to talk to and problem solve with because there’s no time to not get it right because those kids need intervention, and they need it right now.