At Practice Makes Perfect, we run a fellowship program which gives student teachers the chance to make summer learning engaging and fun for students who need it the most. This program gives aspiring teachers more than 40 hours of teacher training with full mentorship from former teaching fellows as well as certified teachers. We’ve designed this program for individuals wanting a realistic job preview of the teaching profession.
If you’re embarking on a journey to become a teacher in New York City, this fellowship could be a chance for you to gain invaluable experience while also learning about full-time job opportunities in the area. Yesenia Peralta talks to us about her experience as a former teaching fellow at Practice Makes Perfect:
Hi Yesenia, thanks so much for meeting with me to talk about your experience as a Practice Makes Perfect fellow. So, what was your summer experience like and how did it help you?
My 2016 summer experience with Practice Makes Perfect was unforgettable. During my time, I worked with a co-teacher who didn’t see themselves pursuing a career in education. As a result, I had a classroom to myself which allowed me to find out if teaching was what I really wanted to do. This was my first time having to set up my own classroom. I also had to set expectations and routines for the students while also convincing them that my lesson was worth their time.
Having that full classroom experience gave me the preparation I needed to go and get a job as a full-time teacher in September. It gave me the chance to fully engulf myself in the teaching career. Aside from it giving me the autonomy to set up classes by myself, it also helped me to think on my feet. I learned that not every teaching strategy works with every group of children. I had to learn how to consider every student’s needs so that I could continue offering them the most value I possibly could.
Basically, I got to see in practice that there is no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to teaching. One of the most valuable skills I learned during my time is improvisation. I learned to read my crowd better. Thanks to Practice Makes Perfect, I’m not scared to change my lesson plan anymore. Better yet, I know how to do it with purpose so that all my children benefit from it.
You mentioned that Practice Makes Perfect gave you the skills you needed to get a full-time job. Is that what you did immediately after finishing your summer fellowship program?
Yes, I started my first official teaching job in September after I completed my fellowship program. In fact, I only had two weeks off between the two. The first step of my career was a bit of a rollercoaster though. I was hired as a Special Ed teacher for first graders. But, when I arrived for my first day in my new job with everything set up, I was reassigned to different classes teaching third, fourth, and fifth graders. During this time, I had to lesson plan twice as much and also needed to align my plans with those of the classroom teacher’s, which was quite challenging. Despite being difficult, I felt well equipped to deal with the curveball that had been thrown at me. Honestly, one of the biggest challenges I faced wasn’t working with children, but with adults.
While it was an amazing experience, I’ve since transferred to another school in the Bronx. In fact, it was Karim from Practice Makes Perfect that helped me get my new job. He made the connection for me and sent a recommendation letter to my current school. Honestly, I couldn’t be happier here. I love working with my children and am now part of an amazing team. I don’t plan on going anywhere anytime soon!
Do you have any funny, eye-opening, or inspiring stories from your time at Practice Makes Perfect or as a teacher?
The most inspiring part of my job is that I help children achieve at school. I remember there was one girl that didn’t believe in herself. She didn’t feel she could pass her classes or achieve her goals. I supported her and told her about Cornell and Karim’s story. I also advised her to buy his book and told her that if he could do it, there's no reason why she couldn’t.
I’m proud to say that I played a part in helping her achieve her dreams. She’s now a senior in college and has received acceptance letters from top schools. Today, her biggest challenge is choosing which amazing school she goes to. I feel honored to have been part of that – to know that teachers like me can have that kind of impact on a student’s life.
I can tell you’re extremely committed to your work. Where does that commitment and passion come from?
Our children are the future of our planet – literally.
My view is that my job is to make sure that our children get the best education they possibly can. When it comes to kids in areas like the Bronx specifically, we don’t know what they’re dealing with at home. I want to make sure that during their time at school they get my undivided attention and support. I want to make sure that I’m giving them the best opportunity to reach their goals and succeed.
I feel that, as teachers, we need to give students the confidence and push to believe in themselves. I tell my children every day: “your brain is a library and I’m here to put more books, more information, in your library”.
Any last words for all the aspiring teachers out there?
If you’re in the New York area and you really want to teach, Practice Makes Perfect can give you that realistic experience prior to your teaching job. I highly recommend the fellowship program because you can work at Practice Makes Perfect before your senior year, giving you the real experience you need to become a successful teacher.
The student teaching experience isn’t enough to become a teacher. Combining this with a fellowship at Practice Makes Perfect, however, gives you the complimentary experience you need to pursue a lifelong teaching career.