IDEA is fortunate to have five Urban Teachers Fellows on board this year to provide instruction and small group intervention to our scholars. Get to know this year’s class of Urban Teachers Fellows here.
Hometown: Waco, Texas
College: Bates College
Majors: Math and Classical Studies
Teaching at IDEA: Geometry
Although he always loved math and had great math teachers in high school, it was Jesus Carrera’s 11th-grade English teacher who encouraged him to become a teacher himself. “She was an alum of my high school and came back there to teach,” Carrera recalled. “And I knew I would want to work with students who were similar to me. I went to a Black and Latinx high school and I wanted to find a way to take what I’ve learned and give opportunities to others.”
His education courses at Bates required Carrera to volunteer. He tutored high school students in algebra and geometry and then taught algebra to seventh- and eighth-graders. “I loved being in the classroom,” Carrera said.
As a community-oriented person who loved to host dinner parties before COVID-19 hit, the isolation of the pandemic has been challenging for Carrera. Teaching online is similarly strange. “I’m missing out on the social aspect of interacting with students and also the teacher duties that would happen in a regular school environment. The students I’ve met have been amazing and it’s been a wonderful time but it’s strange to not be able to talk with them as much as I’d like to. They’re starting to become more comfortable and share their faces more often in the virtual classroom, which I’m really happy about.”
Hometown: Lawrenceville, Georgia
College: Kennesaw State University
Major: Electrical Engineering
Teaching at IDEA: Algebra I
A camp counselor and education intern while in high school, Fauzia Farvez was always drawn to a career in teaching. Her parents, on the other hand, steered her toward a STEM career. “My parents are immigrants from Bangladesh,” Farvez explained. “My dad came to America with a student visa to study engineering. Growing up with Bengali parents they try to push you to be a doctor or an engineer. I guess because they came from a country that was not as well off, making sure their children are financially stable was their priority. At the same time I want to have a career I’m passionate about. So I got an engineering degree, but I love math and I care about students receiving a high quality education, so now I’m a math teacher.”
Farvez chose to follow her teaching dream with Urban Teachers because of the organization's mission to provide equitable education. The population of schools she attended growing up was mostly Black and Latinx. “Some of the teachers I had growing up were not the best,” she said. “I felt like they didn’t really care about the students. I didn’t feel supported in the way I wanted to be supported. My past experiences are what pushes me to strive to be the teacher I always wished I had.”
“I want to know what works for my students and what doesn’t, and what makes them feel engaged. I’m trying to tap into their lenses and see things in their perspective,” Farvez said. “I want my students to know that I care--about them, about their future and whatever they decide to do after high school, whether it’s college or a career path. I want them to know I’m going to be there for them, even after they graduate. I want to teach a generation of students who will change the world.”
When she’s not teaching by day or taking graduate courses by night, Farvez loves liking, going out to eat, traveling, and being surrounded by her family, friends, and people who always encourage her. She’s also interested in fashion and is trying to learn how to sew and design.
Hometown: Harrisburg, PA
College: George Washington University
Majors: English and Classical Studies
Teaching at IDEA: English I
Reading Harper Lee’s iconic novel To Kill a Mockingbird inspired Rachael McKee to set her sights on law school. “I was interested in the social justice aspect of law and trying to address our flawed criminal justice system,” she explained. Even now, McKee remains passionate about reforming the justice system, citing the bestselling book Just Mercy, by public interest lawyer Bryan Stevenson, as recent motivation.
While an undergrad student at George Washington University, however, McKee realized teaching was another avenue to pursue social justice. During college she worked for Jumpstart, an organization that provides high-quality early childhood education in low-income communities to disrupt the cycle of poverty. “Working at Jumpstart opened my eyes to the inequity in our education system,” McKee explained. “I decided to join Urban Teachers because they work toward educational equity to bring opportunity to students who deserve it.”
Her own identity fueled McKee’s desire to teach with an anti-racist culturally responsive lens. “I was sent to a private Catholic school where I was surrounded by people who didn’t look like me,” she explained. “I’m mixed. My family is Black and white. There weren’t a lot of students who looked like me and I didn’t have a Black teacher until grad school. My mission is inclusivity, and affirming and upholding people’s different identities and celebrating their uniqueness.”
The focus for McKee’s students during the first quarter has been One World--an argumentative writing curriculum centered around social justice issues. “I appreciate that they’re bringing their own voices to these topics, sharing why they chose the topics and what they mean to their lives. That passion comes across in their writing. I want to empower them to have a voice in these papers.”
Hometown: Mansfield, Massachusetts
College: Harvard University
Teaching at IDEA: English II
Even though he studied linguistics as an undergrad, Nick Sardella’s early teaching experience was in math. He’s worked as a teaching assistant in calculus classes, developed test preparation materials for an education organization, and participated in Generation Teach, a summer teaching residency.
“With Generation Teach, I taught math to middle schoolers for five weeks, which was my first experience with secondary school students and I really enjoyed that a lot,” Sardella recalled. “When I was deciding where to go upon graduation, all those experiences inclined me toward teaching. When I joined Urban Teachers, I decided to teach English because it fit more with my general interests and passions. I don’t find myself going out and doing math in my free time, but I’m always reading and looking at language academically.”
Looking back on his own high school experience, Sardella said the teachers who most influenced him were those he also worked with outside the classroom, in extracurricular activities. That’s why he finds it particularly challenging to be teaching in the virtual environment. “It’s harder to build relationships when you don’t have a sense of who the kids really are. Every time I do have a moment where a student engages, I appreciate that even more.” That’s why Sardella is especially excited about the small group intervention classes he’ll be teaching this year. “It’s a lot more responsibility but I’m glad to have that opportunity to build relationships,” he said.
He’s also looking forward to working with students on writing. “It’s so important to help them use their voices to develop and present their ideas. And I do hope to apply some of what I know about linguistics.”
In his free time, Sardella reads science fiction and fantasy novels and listens to blues, rock, folk, and country music.
Hometown: Auburn, New York
College: Rochester Institute of Technology
Major: Global Studies
Teaching at IDEA: English II
After graduating college, Austin Wansor returned to his hometown and worked for a year as a substitute teacher at the high school where he had attended. “It was great to go back and see teachers who I had and talk to them about the profession and what I was getting myself into. I got to reconnect with a lot of my teachers and got some advice from them,” Wansor said.
Because his entrance into the Urban Teachers program coincided with the beginning of the pandemic, Wansor quickly realized that his experiences in the classroom as a substitute wouldn’t quite translate into the virtual environment. “I figured I had a lot to learn and I needed to make sure I was capable in the virtual environment if I wanted to teach.”
“Everyone is struggling right now. It’s a difficult time for everyone,” he said. “You do get to see the resilience of a lot of students, which is incredible, honestly. A lot of what I focused in college was human rights and I think there’s a lot of interesting work on individuals' ability to overcome incredible odds. I’ve learned about a lot of different perspectives that I think will be interesting to the students.”
As he prepares to teach small group reading intervention classes, Wansor hopes to cultivate a passion for reading and writing among his students. “Everything else will follow if students are interested in the subject material. I want to make sure it’s something relevant to them and useful. Personally, Wansor is a fan of Ernest Hemingway and classic English literature. He’s currently reading a biography of the late Congressman and civil rights icon John Lewis. In addition to reading, he is an avid snowboarder and plays chess.
“One of the best things about reading is it gives you the opportunity to explore the world from someone else’s perspective,” Wansor said. “I’m approaching my English classroom with the idea of allowing students more opportunities to understand the world around them and be prepared to communicate with others.”