by Nolan Benson, City Year Milwaukee AmeriCorps member serving at Dr. George Washington Carver Academy of Mathematics and Science
When analyzing my City Year experience, I think about the professional development the organization instills within me. Working with scholars and completing a lot of work in a short amount of time has taught me useful skills, but much of my development comes from my assigned coordinator role. At the start of my service year, we learned about the various coordinator roles that serve the whole team in specific content areas. These roles provide an opportunity for us to dive deeper into things we are passionate about and are areas where we can grow professionally. Allow me to introduce each of my teammates and their coordinator roles to show how each of them has been challenged professionally this year.
Dan Kleiman: Dan serves as the Carver team’s math coordinator. In this role, he reviews the team’s math session plans every week, which requires him to give constructive feedback while holding his team accountable for completing each part of the plans. He planned a math event this year and worked tirelessly on a fourteen days of pi math initiative that included math riddles, an original math rap, a guess the number of jelly beans in the jar game, among other daily activities. The initiative was targeted towards 4th-8th grade and each classroom was rewarded points after each activity. He delegated specific tasks to each member of our team to make sure the pi day event ran smoothly. Students enjoyed the opportunity to learn about math and learned a lot about Pi over those fourteen days. The competition sparked passionate conversations around math throughout the participating grade levels and no doubt the winning classrooms enjoyed shoving shaving cream pies their City Years in the face at the celebration at the end.
Courtney Evans: Courtney serves as the Carver team’s extended learning time coordinator. The extended learning time is an opportunity for our team to help support students academically and provide additional enrichment opportunities. Courtney manages the connection between Carver’s City Year team and the Community Learning Center (CLC) afterschool programming. She helps manage relationships with the external partners and holds our team accountable. She also created the schedule for each of us to determine who will be in which rooms each day of the week.
Carmen Varela and Chaz White: Carmen and Chaz serve as the Carver team’s social emotional learning coordinators. They manage our check-in check-out program and also work with our student leaders known as red shirts. These students earn their red shirts because they have exemplified Carver's core values of belief, stewardship, perseverance, integrity, respect, and excellence and thus they receive a red Carver shirt to wear instead of the blue Carver shirt). Carmen and Chaz also monitor when DESSA needs to be completed. The DESSA is a …. The role also requires them to lead a facilitated data review about the DESSA scores. This is an important part of our work in schools since we support the social and emotional learning of our students.
Julie Meadows: Julie serves as the Carver team’s evaluation coordinator. She audits our dosage trackers, or how much time we are spending tutoring each of our students and helps us measure their progress in math, English, attendance and social emotional learning. She consistently runs facilitated data chats about various sets of data related to our service. If one of us begins to fall behind in tutoring, she can have a conversation to set action steps of how to find more time to work with the scholars that need it the most.
Kat Velasquez: Kat serves as the Carver team’s attendance coordinator. We write our phone calls on her laminated board each week and she logs them. She ran a March Madness attendance initiative in which each class with a corps member is paired with another. The class with the higher attendance moved on to the next round. By the end of the month of March we celebrated the remaining two classrooms, one of which was my fifth-grade classroom. We had won very few attendance initiatives before this one, but the scholars showed up to school more frequently during March madness.
Kaitlin Mckeough: Kaitlin serves as the Carver team’s civic engagement coordinator. She has been the point person for our team at Make a Difference Day and MLK day. She also has in-kinded for numerous events this year across the different coordinator roles. Recently she was responsible for planning an event for Black History Month. Another big project consisted of planning a service day for our team and scholars for Global Youth Service Day. We had over 20 scholars collaborate to paint colorful murals along the walls of a previously dull staircase. Half of the scholars sketched out the paw prints (our mascot is a cougar) and the BSPIRE core value words (Belief, stewardship, perseverance, integrity, respect, and excellence) each in a different color. We had a lot of laughs with our scholars and they enjoyed the experience of participating in a service day to beautify their school.
David Smith: David serves our events and external relations coordinator. The main part of this role has been preparing the newsletter each month for the team. He assigns each part of the newsletter to various members of our team then sets a deadline for when they need to be turned in to him.
Nolan Benson: I am the English and language arts (ELA) coordinator. I review ELA sessions each week, and once a month I also review unit plans. I already have planned and executed both an event and an initiative to promote literacy. Recently, I ran an essay contest in collaboration with Kaitlin for the school’s Black History Month programming. Most questions regarding ELA sessions or strategies are directed toward me.
These excerpts are only glimpses into the different responsibilities that go with each coordinator role. Once assigned a role, AmeriCorps members can be creative with how they implement their responsibilities. That autonomy acts as the magnetic force that guides each corps members’ leadership style.