by Elle Enander, AmeriCorps member serving on the Comcast NBCUniversal team with Jeremiah E. Burke High School
I serve with Jeremiah E. Burke teacher Casey Brennan '12, '13, twice a week during our school's enrichment block, an additional period in students' schedules designed to supplement and dive more deeply into math concepts covered during their main math classes. During this class I work with Mr. Brennan to ensure students understand essential algebra content, breaking down more difficult concepts to give students enough time to really master the material. I've enjoyed getting to serve with Mr. Brennan in this classroom, having the opportunity to observe and learn from his classroom management strategies, modeling his methods in my own relationships with students. I've learned more about his particular relationship with the school and his insight into his students.
Mr. Brennan has a unique relationship to Jeremiah E. Burke High School, having served as both a first-year Corps Member and later a Team Leader at the Burke from 2011-2013. He then completed a year of the Boston Teacher Residency program at Boston Community Leadership Academy in Hyde Park before returning to the Burke as a math teacher in 2014
Can you describe your path from first-year corps member to teacher at the Burke? How have your experiences at the Burke differed during each of these roles?
It was definitely an interesting transition. It was exciting to return as a teacher and reconnect with students and colleagues that I got to know as a corps member. I was teaching 9th grade, but I really enjoyed running into the students I worked with during my service year (who were seniors by then) and seeing how much they had grown and matured.
Both teachers and corps members work incredibly hard in service of their students. When I first returned to teach, though, I definitely felt a greater level of accountability and pressure to do my job well. Students, parents, administrators, and colleagues depend directly on teachers to ensure that students are having a positive learning experience on a daily basis. Fortunately, my familiarity with the school absolutely aided in that transition.
Since becoming a teacher, have you consistently had a corps member in your classroom?
Yes, every year! I have been lucky to have incredible corps members who form strong relationships with students and push them to understand and complete assignments. We do our best to talk regularly outside of the classroom about student concerns and arranging interventions. I'm not sure I would have survived my first year teaching without City Year's support!
Did serving with City Year inform your role as a teacher, and if so, how?
Serving in City Year absolutely aided in my transition to teaching. When you are a corps member, you view the classroom more from a student's perspective than from a teacher's. As a result, when I started student teaching, my approach to planning and delivering instruction naturally started with the students in mind. It's not easy to incorporate each student's needs into every lesson, but my experience with City Year gave me an advantage in developing that mentality before I ever stood in front of a classroom.