Teaching is ‘most meaningful work I can imagine’

| Green Bay Press-Gazette | Pamela Parks

Teaching is a profession for the passionate person who must be prepared to overcome a multitude of challenges in order to encourage a high level of learning in students. For Jennifer Corroy, that passion and preparedness took her all the way from Luxemburg-Casco High School to the edge of Texas, teaching and preparing students for college and opening doors of change in the face of poverty.

Now Corroy, a 12th-grade English Language Arts and International Baccalaureate Diploma Program teacher at IDEA College Preparatory in Donna, Texas, is being recognized for those efforts. She received the 2013 Fishman Prize for Superlative Classroom Practice, the most prestigious award for school teachers working in public schools in low-income communities (with a 40 percent or higher poverty rate).

Of 570 teachers from 42 states, nine finalists were observed in the classroom and interviewed by an expert panel of judges, and only four were awarded the prize.

Results that buoyed Corroy to the top of the list included improving student achievement results through an intense and rigorous English curriculum that has prepared students for the literary assessment of the International Baccalaureate (IB) program. Since her first year teaching IB English, 80 percent of Corroy’s students have scored well enough to earn college credit for the course — a 43 percent increase from the previous year. In addition, every student passed the Exit Level Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS) for English Language Arts.

Corroy knew she was in the top nine candidates, but was surprised by a very public announcement of her selection as an award winner.

“I was on pins and needles waiting to hear. Then they ambushed me in my classroom to tell me that I won,” Corroy said. “They want to elevate teachers to the status of rock stars, so they brought each one of us who won the award a bouquet of flowers. The local Spanish news station, the local newspaper, and all the kids showed up to surprise me.”

In addition to the recognition, the Fishman Prize includes a $25,000 cash prize and a summer residency where the winners will write and publish an essay on education and classroom practices.

A 'great foundation'

Corroy, the daughter of Eric and Lindy Corroy of Dyckesville, graduated from Luxemburg-Casco High School in 1999. Corroy said that several teachers there made an impact on her, sparking her passion to educate others. One teacher was Sandy Ehren, who Corroy identified as her club coach for Future Problem Solving.

“Mrs. Ehren is the one that gave me the confidence in myself and the opportunity to build independence. It was a great foundation for college and beyond, including my current success,” Corroy said.

Another teacher who influenced her passion for education was Environmental Sciences teacher and Conservation Club adviser Charles Frisk.

“Mr. Frisk gave me a perspective of the world beyond myself and my interest in social justice and community service. I began thinking about the value of taking my skills I am so fortunate and blessed to have and taking them to make the world a better place,” Corroy said.

“Teaching is such great work. It challenges me and allows me to use a range of skills — problem solving, critical thinking, and creativity, as well as being a communicator and an investor in students and families,” she said. “It’s challenging and really fulfilling work.”

Corroy graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2004 with majors in education and history and was placed as a Teach For America (TFA) Corps Member in the Rio Grande Valley in Roma, Texas, which is on the Texas and Mexico border.

TFA places college graduates in teaching position in impoverished or underperforming schools around the country with a minimum two-year commitment to insure that all students in the country have access to an excellent education. Corroy is currently in her third year of teaching high school English at IDEA College Preparatory School, a tuition-free K-12 public charter school. The school’s population is considered high poverty, with 85 percent of students qualify for free and reduced meals.

2013 Teach For America Alumni Award

The Fishman Prize was awarded to Corroy on the heels of another significant recognition — the 2013 Teach For America Alumni Award for Excellence in Teaching. Corroy was one of eight exemplary classroom teachers chosen from hundreds of nominees from across the country. The award includes a $5,000 cash award and an international ambassadorship experience.

2013 Teach For America Alumni Award for Excellence in Teaching are selected for their impact on educational outcomes, unwavering belief in the potential of all students, and commitment to combatting educational inequity.

“Every single student … deserves to have access to a truly excellent preparatory education. We are an open enrollment charter school. We take every kid and we collectively agree to give them whatever they need to provide them with a better future,” Corroy said. “My students are so hardworking and so capable. It is really neat to work in an environment where every person believes that the student can achieve no matter what their previous experiences have been with school or family. That is such a just and meaningful mission and is really compelling, and most meaningful work I can imagine doing.”

Imali Ariyarathne, seventh-grade teacher at Langston Hughes Academy, stands in front of her students while introducing them to the captivating world of science

Imali Ariyarathne, seventh-grade teacher at Langston Hughes Academy, introduces her students to the captivating world of science.

About TNTP

TNTP is the nation’s leading research, policy, and consulting organization dedicated to transforming America’s public education system, so that every generation thrives.

Today, we work side-by-side with educators, system leaders, and communities across 39 states and over 6,000 districts nationwide to reach ambitious goals for student success.

Yet the possibilities we imagine push far beyond the walls of school and the education field alone. We are catalyzing a movement across sectors to create multiple pathways for young people to achieve academic, economic, and social mobility.

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