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My Growth with AmeriCorps

by Cassie Michel, Reading Corps tutor serving in Jeffco Public Schools

AmeriCorps provides members lots of opportunities for personal and professional growth. That is one of the reasons I chose to serve in AmeriCorps. Before serving in AmeriCorps, I taught 3rd grade for 2 years. As a teacher, I needed more support than the school system I was in could provide. I tried my best to learn and implement different strategies; however, despite my best efforts, I was not as successful as I was expected to be. I was very stressed and not doing well with my mental health. Each day I felt like I was failing despite doing everything in my power not to. I chose AmeriCorps because of the support provided and the opportunity to learn new skills and knowledge. 

In reflecting on my service year so far,  I made the right decision. I have grown in a lot of ways. I have had much better balance in my life. I am able to accomplish my workload at my service site. In addition to my full-time service, I have a part time job, and I feel less stressed than when I was only teaching full time. As a teacher, there were many days where I would be crying during my lunch because I was so overwhelmed and felt so defeated. I have not cried during my lunch even once this year. I am learning how to balance all my commitments and responsibilities. My personal life and relationships are stronger because I am less stressed. 

Professionally, I have had a lot of growth. I attended a six-week training on using dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) skills in elementary schools. DBT is a type of therapy that is often used to treat depression and is centered on mindfulness. After each training there was a strategy, skill or mindset shift that I took with me to my service and incorporated into my practice. These skills help me meet students where they are and help me be more equipped to meet the emotional needs of my students. I also was able to learn how to explicitly set and reach expectations to students and see an example of that. Then I practiced that with each pair of students I work with. Starting off the year with strong high expectations has helped me manage student behavior to make the most out of tutoring time. 

My AmeriCorps service has helped me find a new direction in my career. I have been really struggling with knowing what I want to do for a while. I love education and am passionate about it, but I was fearful that I cannot be successful in the education field. This service experience has shown me that I can be successful when I work with pairs of students and have the time to give each student the time and attention they need. It felt impossible for me to do that as a classroom teacher. I am really good at being in a support role within a school. I am still not quite sure what is next for me as there are many factors to consider. What I keep returning to as my next step, and the idea that is “sticking” the most is pursuing a master’s degree in Special Education and being a Special Education teacher. In college, I did not think I would be good at being a Special Education teacher and did not think it was for me. Through my service experience, I am much more confident that I would excel at being a Special Education teacher. 

How could you grow if you served in an AmeriCorps program? How would your life change because of that growth? Take the leap and learn about joining an AmeriCorps program today!

CYC Administrator

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