As I celebrate my eighth year at The Ethical Community Charter School(TECCS) in January of this New Year, I can’t help thinking about my humble beginnings at TECCS, a school of choice in Jersey City, New Jersey and how far I’ve come in my understanding of how vital school choice is for teachers and students alike.
Like many educator job applicants, I walked into that TECCS job interview not really understanding what a charter school was and school choice meant. As I navigated my way through the years, I began to really understand what charter schools are and how important school choice is in the lives of our students. Throughout the years, as I got to know our families, I understood the importance of having options for their children’s education. I’m grateful that schools of choice exist because they provide opportunities for students, their families, and educators like myself.
Schools of choice aren’t here to “take away” from anyone or any other school. We are here join other educators and traditional education institutions in teaching our youth. People always prefer to have choices, and why not have that in our children’s education? I firmly believe that when children and families have the opportunity to choose where they feel safe and comfortable, learning goes beyond the textbooks!
With each year of teaching experience I gain within a school of choice, I witness and affirm the need for schools such as TECCS. I witness the growth of students and see them realize their hopes and dreams. I witness the joy in their parents. As our students graduate from our school to experience high school, they often return to thank us for what we have done for them. They thank us for the opportunity they experienced and for the time we dedicated to help them learn in many different ways. But, as most educators, we do not do it for the thanks, but for the transformative experiences our students have and successful lives they are able to lead.
These experiences may seem insignificant, but they are all that I need to fuel my desire to do more for my students. Many schools of choice, including the one I work for are underfunded, and yet despite that, we have created a safe and caring environment. We’ve helped mold our students to want to be advocates for themselves and for others. We are giving them the foundation and tools necessary to be upstanders and changemakers in an ever-changing world.
Eight years ago, I made a choice to work at TECCS. It was a choice not made lightly, but with great thought and risk – just like the families’ of our students do each year. It is true what they say, with great risk, comes great reward. I encourage you to research school choice options in your communities and learn more about the options our youth have across our state. These choices are changing the lives of everyone involved in transformative ways.