During the spring of my second year as an ACE teacher, I interviewed at a school that did not yet exist. I taught my demo lesson to the principal and president instead of students. I toured an elementary school and struggled to picture what it would look like with high school students walking the halls. Although it was difficult to predict what the first year may hold, I was drawn to Cristo Rey Dallas immediately.
While I have never considered myself an extreme risk taker, I look at my short amount of time in the professional world and there seems to be a pattern to my choices.
Joining ACE was a huge gamble. I had no idea where ACE might send me, and I did not know if I would become friends with my community members. Similarly, accepting a position at a school in its launch year was a risk. Would we meet our enrollment goals? Would the students thrive in their job placements?
Through both of these risky endeavors, though, I have learned a great deal, in part because of the many unknowns. As I think about my time in ACE and at Cristo Rey, I am most grateful for the lessons I have learned about collaboration. I have always been incredibly independent and had a stubborn streak about doing things on my own without asking for or accepting help. That resistance to help shattered as a first-year teacher;
I asked for guidance in everything from classroom management to parent communication. Similarly, Cristo Rey has shown me the fruits of collaboration. Principal Christine Román challenges me to grow as a teacher by increasing the rigor of my lessons. Literature teacher and former ACE Teaching Fellow Tim Woodward inspires me with his commitment to help each and every student succeed in his class. Emily Lazor, another ACE graduate, reminds me of our students’ great gifts by creating a space for them to be their truest selves in her theology class. I doubt that I would have embraced such collaboration if I had followed safer, more predictable paths.
In both cases, risk scared me at first but allowed me to find greater comfort within a community. The key is to find a team that believes in the risk as much as you do. In ACE, that team consisted of my community, co-workers, fellow social studies teachers, and the larger ACE 20 cohort. At Cristo Rey Dallas, that team includes my co-workers, the leadership of the school, and my remarkable students. I have never regretted either one of these risks. They are two of the best decisions I have ever made.