By Heather Banet, AmeriCorps member, Gompers Middle School
Kimberley Fortier, a sixth grade partner teacher at Gompers Middle School, has been teaching for thirty-one years, of which the past 11 have been at Gompers Middle School. This is City Year's seventh year partnering with Gompers and Ms. Fortier. She brings so much passion and heart into her classroom and singing is an everyday tradition. Like the character in her favorite book, Love You Forever, Ms. Fortier sings a tune to both her students and City Year mentors to show them her love and appreciation: "I'll love you forever, I'll like you for always, as long as I'm living, my baby you'll be." We sat down with Ms. Fortier to find out exactly what it is about City Year that has earned such love and appreciation.
Q: What impact has City Year had on the Gompers Middle School campus?
A: City Year has had such a tremendous impact on this school because our student's socio-emotional and academic needs are so great. City Year's presence on campus allows teachers to reach children on a deeper level. This offers a sustained impact in many ways. As near-peer mentors, City Year sees and hears vital things that don't always reach a teacher's attention. When City Year mentors share that information with teachers, it allows for proper intervention to help the student with whatever they are going through, whether it be anxiety, abuse, suicidal ideation, or other life threatening situations. After six years of having City Year at Gompers, last year we did not have them on campus, and I know that I definitely felt the impact of their absence. I believe City Year's presence on campus is vital because they fill a gap that no other element can fill. It's safe to say that I am more than pleased that sensational City Year is back on campus!
Q: How does having a City Year mentor in a student's life make a difference?
A: It makes a big difference because the City Year goes out of their way to find young people who are outstanding in their character and their work ethic. Our students can see hard-working young people who embody dedication, excellence, and perseverance. It is important for our students to have these great role models that never give up. The children love City Year! Especially for sixth graders new to middle school or other students that are new to the school that may struggle with adjusting, City Year can connect with them in ways that others can't and make a powerful impact.
Q: How do you collaborate with City Year AmeriCorps members in the classroom?
A: We collaborate to determine which students need socio-emotional and academic intervention, how much they need it, and when they will receive it. We work together in looking at the school day to understand when students are at their optimal level to perform or when they need a mental break. Additionally, we find opportunities to celebrate students. It is a blessing to have someone to bring affirmation and encouragement to the scholars so that they will want to succeed and thus, can succeed.
Q: What is your favorite thing about City Year?
A: My favorite thing about City Year is the high caliber of character that City Year AmeriCorps members demonstrate, including their work ethic, optimistic thinking, and positive attitudes. They are able to create lasting relationships with young people. I also love seeing the aspirations and goals of City Year members because I know that they will all go on to achieve great things.
Q: How does having City Year on the school campus affect the school environment?
A: City Year boosts morale on our campus by encouraging the children, helping redirect students that need to self-correct behavior and attitudes, and providing tutoring and enrichment after school: something that the students absolutely love. Students need those vital connections because so many of them have great issues in their lives, and City Year helps to build bridges that provide children with a measure of stability. Amidst all the turmoil that students on this campus and in this community face, City Year offers a place of safety and sanctuary that they may not find anywhere else.
Q: What is your favorite lesson or subject to teach?
A: I love teaching math, history, and English the most. Since my students are behind in almost all subjects, it's exciting for me to open doors and see the lights switch on when things finally click.
Q: What message would you like to leave for not only the Gompers team but all the City Year AmeriCorps members serving throughout the nation?
A: My message is that you are deeply loved. That you are highly esteemed and you are greatly appreciated. The work that you all do has untold value and impact that you may never realize. What you do is so important, and you may never truly know the impact that you have, but you are an absolute treasure.