Help us welcome LaToya Sales, our 2017 Urban Leaders Fellow
LaToya joined the Fort Worth Literacy Partnership team in June through the Urban Leaders Fellowship program. The program matches aspiring leaders with elected officials and innovative partner organizations to learn about bringing real and lasting change to communities in which they work.
During her seven-week fellowship, LaToya will synthesize details of the Summer Learning Collaborative Action Network’s 2017 work to promote summer literacy programs across Fort Worth, identify best practices for summer learning and evaluate the Action Network’s Stop Six Summer Scholars program, which is operating through the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Fort Worth with support from Girls Inc.
1. How did your career path evolve from your days as a Spelman College political science student to a Teach For America fifth grade teacher in Tulsa, Okla., and now as an Urban Leaders Fellow?
I wanted to become an expert in all “things” government, so I chose to major in political science in college. I acquired many skills that allowed me to evaluate different systems and analyze what is working and where change is needed. I built upon my reading and writing skills every year. My love for reading and writing helped me to teach my college and fifth-graders to read any piece of literature or work, and discuss their interpretation. I am constantly learning how to teach different skills to different students.
As I tell my students, you really do not know where life is going to take you. But, you can be ready for whatever detours you may encounter. My career path did not include teaching. I like to say, “teaching found me.”
My educational career started when a dean and college professor offered me a job as her teacher’s assistant. I thought the job would be a great learning opportunity and a challenge. The experience was truly life changing. Teaching is not an easy profession, and trying to teach others who were not college ready was difficult. After experiencing this lack of preparedness, I wanted to help students acquire skills that are crucial to being successful. This is why I joined Teach For America.
My first year teaching, I learned teachers did not have a voice. This was perplexing to me, since we are with our students every day. So, once I learned about the Urban Leaders Fellowship, I wanted to become a fellow. The fellowship will afford me the opportunity to look at policy decisions from the perspective of an elected official and a nonprofit organization. I want to be a voice at the table for many groups that are not normally represented. This summer I want to learn more about policy and how I can affect change in my community.
2. What were your biggest challenges in the classroom?
My two biggest challenges in my classroom were lack of motivation from some of my students and lack of parental involvement.
3. What worked?
What worked in my classroom was my relentless attitude about every student being a success on his or her own level. I looked at every student as an individual and designed my lesson plans to reflect various learning styles. I wanted each student to reach his or her own level of success and set goals that I knew each could accomplish.
Parental involvement is hard to ascertain. Many of them are working during school hours and have more than one job. I wanted parents to feel like they were involved in my classroom, regardless of their schedule. So, I would send home progress reports every two weeks. The progress reports were designed to show parents how their student(s) were behaving in class, current grades and additional comments from me. In return, many parents knew their student(s) progress and could communicate with me about any issues or concerns. It was a great way to communicate with parents, and they appreciated it.
4. What do you see as the greatest public policy challenges facing public education?
The greatest public policy challenge facing public education is how to keep the curriculum engaging without sacrificing the content and skills needed to obtain mastery. We live in a society were learning is constantly evolving. There are many systems that are being used to educate our children, but are they learning what they need to be successful?
As educators, we try to incorporate different types of innovation into our daily lesson plans; however, many students still struggle. The question is, “How do we balance ‘traditional’ educational techniques with innovation?” I used both in my classroom. On any given day, some students would work on a computer program to master skills they needed while I was re-teaching others in either small groups or one-on-one.
5. What are your goals for your work with the Fort Worth Literacy Partnership?
This summer, my work with Fort Worth Literacy Partnership will afford me the opportunity to see how a nonprofit affects policy in a community. My plan, after the fellowship, is to work in policy. I want to gain insight into how a community’s need for change results in different programs to meet that need.