Thursday, October 9, 2014

From Texas to Rhode Island: My Journey to BVP

by Andie Parazo, Talent Recruitment Associate

Like many first-generation college students, I had little knowledge of how to succeed in college and no one to turn to for help. I had no idea what to do with my life until I took Sociology of Education. I strongly identified with my professor’s background and her struggles; not only did she have curly dark hair and tan skin like I have, but she came to the US with little English and no money, just like my family. I grew to aspire to achieve just as much as she achieved. During class, she told me why I didn’t see people like me-- people with immigrant parents, people who look like me, etc.-- in college. I left each class with a strong desire to make change and positively impact my community through education. I couldn’t sit around while people from my races didn’t have the resources to finish high school and had no opportunity to go to college. I knew I had to do something. 

When I graduated from college, I became a teacher at a charter school in Houston, Texas. I loved my kids, but I didn’t receive the support I needed, and the impact that I wanted to make wasn’t in the classroom. I wanted to learn more about how to reduce disparities between students of color and their white peers, so I left my teaching job in July, packed my bags, and drove to Massachusetts to start a year-long master’s program in education and to intern at Boston Public Schools as a Teacher Diversity Intern. There, I found some answers.

In graduate school, my belief that teachers are the change-makers became rooted in research. Numerous studies show that one way to create positive change for students of color is to have more teachers of color. Not only do teachers of color have unique knowledge of the experiences of scholars of color, but they are more likely to have cultural competence (many white teachers have this as well) and serve as role-models for students of color. Studies also show that, across the country, we lack teachers of color and teachers with diverse experiences. I decided I wanted to work at an organization that values teachers of color and teachers with diverse experiences.

At BVP, I am constantly held to high expectations (which studies show isn’t the case for persons of color everywhere) and given the tools to surpass those expectations. Most importantly, I’m no longer the sole advocate for diversity like I am in most settings that I am a part of, and I am part of an organization that values the diverse and nuanced perspective that I’ve gained. Each day, I’m glad that the scholars at BVP can benefit from having teachers who are making efforts to value instead of neutralize differences.

As a Talent Recruitment Associate first and foremost, I want to find the best teachers for our scholars. My hope is that each new hire for the 2015-16 school year will not only have quality teaching skills, but will be culturally responsive and value the diversity that BVP has to offer. This, I admit, is a difficult task, and I face obstacles daily. Motivation to overcome these obstacles, however, comes easily; when I start to struggle at work, I think about how I didn’t have a teacher that I could relate to until I got to college, and how through our similarities, that teacher inspired me to create positive change. Even though this work is challenging, I know that every scholar deserves a teacher in every classroom who can do the same for them. 

As we kick off our recruitment season, I also invite you to help support this work.  You can see new job postings on our career portal. Please consider sharing relevant postings with your networks. Thank you for helping us find rockstar teachers and leaders for the scholars we serve.

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