Many City Year alumni find a year of serving in schools to be a launching pad for a rewarding career in education, including a few recent alumni who continue to live out their passion for supporting students by teaching in Florida, the same state they served.
Mandy Casals ‘14 served with City Year Jacksonville at Edward H. White High School and is now a high school math teacher at that very school. She says that her success in the classroom is due in no small part to the skills she learned during her service year and the great relationship she built with her partner teacher.
“[My partner teacher] made me feel like I was an integral part of the classroom,” Mandy says. “She was a true mentor to me. She was a very tough teacher. I didn't come from a traditional education background, but I learned a lot in that year just watching her.”
“City Year really opened my eyes to understanding the technical aspect of this career and the emotional connection that you have with a student,” says Tampa native Le´ Amber Dunn ‘14, an alumna of City Year Orlando and currently a fourth-grade teacher in Orange County Public Schools. “You have to have a balance of the two to be a successful teacher.”
City Year AmeriCorps members receive more than 300 hours of professional development throughout their service year, ranging from formal training sessions to coaching and observation. From understanding the local education climate and some of the challenges facing schools where we serve, to gaining valuable hands-on experience with students, teachers and families, City Year alumni say that their experience as AmeriCorps members helped them become more confident and equipped to lead their own classrooms.
Marco David ‘17, who served at City Year Miami, is now a first-year teacher in the Miami-Dade County Public Schools. He agrees that his year of service helped prepare him to excel as an educator in Florida. “We have a review where district leadership walks through all the classrooms,” explains Marco. “They came to my classroom and they said that I was doing a phenomenal job. I know that's from my City Year experience.”
City Year trains its AmeriCorps members on a number of topics, including how to build positive, developmental relationships with the students they serve, implementing research-based academic and social-emotional supports to help students succeed; and leadership, communication and other professional skills to be an effective team member and community leader.
For Le´ Amber, Mandy and Marco, their service year provided them with a deep connection to the cities they served, a passion for helping students to thrive and a built-in professional network that helped them land teaching jobs in Florida—each are now working in the same school district where they served.
Le´ Amber teaches at an elementary school that sends many of its students to a high school served by City Year Orlando. “[City Year] made me want to stay in Orlando,” Le´ Amber says. “Once I was able to serve here, it opened my eyes that this is where I needed to be.”
Marco, who is originally from Connecticut, is happy he decided to stay in Florida. “In Miami, you can drive down the street when you're downtown and there's millions of dollars being made,” he says. “The area where I work is the complete opposite, so you see those injustices and it just makes you want to work harder for the kids.”
The connection to City Year remains strong for these alumni. Both Mandy and Marco have had a City Year AmeriCorps member in their classroom. “No matter how hard you try and build relationships, some students you just don't jive with as well,” says Mandy. “Having another person in the classroom who they have a better relationship with is really powerful.”
Although their backgrounds and experience varied, there is one thing Mandy, Le´ Amber and Marco all have in common. They went to Florida because they were interested in making a difference in the lives of students—and City Year helped them translate that commitment into fulfilling careers.
Nationwide, more than 40 percent of City Year alumni express an interest in teaching when completing their service, with more than 300 City Year AmeriCorps members becoming teachers every year. For more information on how City Year supports corps members and alumni who are interested in entering the teaching profession, visit: https://www.cityyear.org/city-year-alumni-education