Stephanie Antonetti is a senior in Educational Studies at Denison University. She is a member of Kappa Delta Pi’s Eta Pi Chapter, the Panhellenic President, the VP of the Order of Omega, and a member of the Tri Delta Sorority. Stephanie will be graduating in May, 2016, and moving to New Orleans to be an Elementary Special Ed teacher with Teach for America.
As I sat quietly in the university library with books such as Paulo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed and David Greene’s Unfit to be a Slave spread out on the table, I began to reflect on my time as an Educational Studies major and why I have decided to join Teach for America’s 2016 Corps.
When I first arrived on campus in the Fall of 2012, I had no idea what I wanted to study. I took a variety of classes—psychology, chemistry, biology, English, accounting, philosophy, and education. I was impressed with all of them, but the one department I kept coming back to was education.
I remember when I was little I would line up my stuffed animals and coerce my brother into joining the crowd. With my pupils assembled, I would stand in front of the crowd and proceed with my daily lesson. However, for the longest time I kept questioning if teaching was even the right path for me. It wasn’t until my freshman year of college when I walked into my very first classroom as a preservice teacher, that I realized that my passion for teaching was so strong that I just couldn’t pass it up.
As I dove further into my studies and experiences, I was shocked to see that there was such a large gap between the resources provided to students from low income communities versus upper/middle-class communities. How is this fair? Just because someone was born into a specific zip code should not determine the kind of education they will receive. I know I was fortunate with my education, and believe that everyone, no matter where they come from, deserves a high quality education.
Today there are more than 16 million children who are growing up in poverty. Unfortunately, these statistics also show that one out of three won’t even graduate from high school. While this is, indeed, a problem our schools face, it only scratches the surface. That’s why it is our job as future educators to not only be a teacher, but also be a mentor—a source of support and encouragement for students from all different backgrounds.
With a passion for changing educational inequity, the KDP chapter at Denison University has been working closely with the Newark City Schools to provide some additional resources for students. Currently, they are collecting books that Denison students no longer want and will be donating them to Newark City School students. The chapter also plans to sponsor a spring service event where its members will, hopefully, be able to participate in face-to-face mentorships with the students.
The support doesn’t stop there. A few other KDP members and I have had the opportunity to work together on a big project in a Critical Pedagogy course. We came together as a group because we all felt passionate about two things: First, the fight against educational inequity and second, the hindering of student creativity within schools (primarily due to lack of resources and the common core). With a desire for change, we proposed to use the $2,000 that was granted to the class as a scholarship to foster student talents. The students unanimously agreed on this proposal. Thus, the money will be given to Rally in the Alley to distribute the scholarships to the students in need. The money can be used on items such as: shoes to join a sports team, bus transportation to a spelling bee or poetry slam, registration for a dance competition, etc. The objective is that no matter what kind of circumstance a child is in, they will have an equal opportunity to foster their talents, become more active in school, and hopefully, minimize their chances of dropping out before graduation.
It is through experiences and deep discussions on issues such as the ones presented here that I found my passion for teaching. I don’t know where I will ultimately end up in life. For now, my next chapter will as a Special Ed teach in New Orleans with Teach for America. I know this is exactly where I am supposed to be.
Read more about the issues discussed today in my editorial Graduate, then change the world.