Rosa Magana is a 2019 TFA Corps member teaching eighth-grade U.S. history at IDEA North Mission College Prep.
What motivated you to apply to join Teach For America and choose to teach in the Rio Grande Valley?
I graduated from UTRGV in 2018, and like many college graduates, I had no idea what my next steps would be. All I knew was that I needed a job and a flow of money to start coming in to pay my student debt.
That was what motivated me to apply to Teach For America the first time. I am glad that I didn’t get accepted, because my mind and heart weren’t in the right place. I was just not ready for it yet.
I was inspired to apply again after moving experiences as a substitute teacher at San Benito CISD. Working with students from my beloved hometown inspired me to become a teacher, because I saw the impact that teachers have on students’ lives.
I was fortunate enough to work with students in special education. Even though it was challenging at times, I wouldn’t change it for the world because I discovered how teaching from a place of love and care could have tremendous impact on student outcomes and growth that will last a lifetime.
I decided to reapply to Teach For America, this time with experience and more personal and professional motivation than ever. I was so excited to get accepted.
TFA gave me the opportunity to grow and to help others grow. I chose to stay and serve the Rio Grande Valley because I value and love the community that resides within it, my main goal is to use my platform as a teacher to serve, challenge, inspire, love, and motivate my students, so that they know that they will always be good enough to go out there and chase their aspirations.
What has been one of the most surprising things you’ve come to learn about education during your time as a classroom leader?
In my short time inside my classroom, I have learned many things, but one thing that stands out for me is how resilient our students are. The best example is what education looks like at the moment with the pandemic. Overnight, everything changed and teachers had to adapt to a virtual setting and students had to follow.
It’s not easy for the adults, so I can’t even begin to imagine how difficult it is for students this year to stay engaged in academics while also experiencing trauma and uncertainty due to COVID-19.
Which leads me to another surprising thing I’ve learned about education thus far, and that is that it doesn’t stop even when — for a moment — the world did. At first I didn’t understand the impact of not extending the start of the academic school year, but then after seeing that schools apart from education also offer shelter, food, counseling, health aid, and love among other vital needs to our students and families, I understood and learned this about education.
What lessons are you learning now that will help you continue to work toward educational equity in the future?
Something that I have learned on my personal and professional journey is that change is inevitable. Sometimes things change for the best and sometimes for the worst, but they will change, and I hope that I can be part of a good change in education. Being a first-generation college graduate myself and coming from a low-income household, I understand how critical obtaining an education is. With that said, an education must explicitly prepare for a career in the 21st century and live a life of positive influence. We need to ensure we are holding education institutions accountable to improve the life and career outcomes of its graduates. I personally know how difficult it is to find an opportunity after college and all the self doubt and regret that comes with it. When I was a struggling graduate, I would constantly tell myself “a college degree without opportunities means nothing.” I aspire to teach at the collegiate level so that I can help steer students into meaningful career paths that reflect all the hard work they’ve put into their education and evokes dedication like the kind I’ve found in teaching. Educational equity at the college and university level means students will go to college, graduate, and have increased opportunities waiting for them. My goal is to ensure that no students leave college lacking the hope and optimism of better life opportunities as a result of their degree. “
Can you share an anecdote or personal experience from your classroom or school?
Last year, there was a school fire drill on my birthday. Everyone had to go outside in an orderly manner and line up until we got cleared to go back into campus. Of course, one of my students had the great idea to announce that “it’s Ms. Magana’s birthday”! In an instant, all my students got out of their fire drill lines and surrounded me to sing “Happy birthday.” In that moment of happiness, I felt that my work with students was important, not only for their educational future but also for the meaningful student-teacher connections that were being built.
Teach for America (TFA) is the national nonprofit organization committed to the idea that one day, all children will attain an excellent education. To this end, the organization partners with communities to inspire the next generation of leaders to address unequal educational opportunities that fall along the lines of race and class. They begin this lifelong work with an initial two-year commitment to teach in some of the nation’s most underserved schools. Here in the Rio Grande Valley, 61 corps members work in seven districts across the region.