Sheila Cruz is a 2017 Teach For America – Jacksonville corps member
The path to success is influenced by meaningful relationships. My own professional trajectory was influenced by one such relationship that started in tenth grade at Pelham Prep Academy. My English teacher, Ms. Anderson, didn’t know it then, but her mentorship shaped me and showed me the teacher I wanted to be.
Rachael Anderson wasn’t just my English teacher. She was also in charge of our student newspaper, yearbook committee, a softball coach and on top of that, she was a Teach For America corps member, originally from Gainesville, Florida. Ms. Anderson was a woman of many hats who would unknowingly pass along those hats to a student who would come to follow in her footsteps.
Sophomore year was a hard year for my family. It was also the only year of high school where my grades depicted the struggles I was facing outside of school. I was earning Cs when I was typically an A student. However, I had someone in my corner that motivated me to recover, to not allow my circumstance to dictate who I was to become. I had a coach, teacher and ally rooting for me. I had Ms. Anderson.
At the time I had no idea what Teach For America was, or that six years later I would be in Jacksonville, Florida leading my own classroom as a Teach For America corps member. What I did know was that Ms. Anderson emitted a beacon of light and I wanted that presence to shine through me on my students in a way that was just as impactful. Further research pushed me to apply and to join Teach For America – Jacksonville’s teaching corps. I realized the organization’s mission, and the resilience of its educators, aligned with who I wanted to be for my students: a role model, like Ms. Anderson.
Today I’m a second grade teacher at Martin Luther King Fame Academy, with 18 precious lives to water and help grow into their very own people. Taking on the role of a new teacher has had its challenges. However, a Teach For America corps member had an incredible impact on my life, and that motivates me to come to school daily with a new perspective and an open heart, knowing firsthand the importance of students having meaningful relationships with their teachers.