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JA Classroom Volunteer Story: “I was prepared for this adventure back into the classroom."
Corri Spiegel, ICMA-CM CEcD
City of Davenport
This fall, I had the privilege of participating in the United Way’s QCDEI Leadership Institute. Part of the curriculum included a challenge to participate in a cultural enriching experiential learning opportunity. In the same time frame, I received an e-mail from Stacy Voelliger at Junior Achievement asking if I would be available to teach a fall session of JA, evidence that clearly the stars were aligning. In the past, I’ve taught JA at two different elementary schools, but this time, my opportunity was somewhere new. I chose JA Our City, which is held in the 3rd grade classroom. I’ll be teaching the same session this spring at another school, so I am confident that my perspective of this experience will only grow when I can compare and contrast the two 3rd grade classrooms.
Having taught different JA sessions many times, I was prepared for this adventure back into the classroom. Knowing what I know from my day job, I felt intellectually and emotionally prepared to engage with a group of students that come to school with experiences drastically different than those I’m used to seeing. As I started working with the kids through the first session, I observed that the class is an inverse demographic reflection from where I’m used to teaching.
About halfway through that first session, the sucker punch in my gut hit like a ton of bricks. I quietly walked up to the teacher’s desk, feeling immensely embarrassed, and asked a question that I should’ve asked before I got there – “What is the overall reading capacity of the students in the room?” The teacher smiled, and politely said some are very proficient, but many are not, and some are not able to read much at all. This reality drastically shifted how I prepared for the subsequent sessions.
Our last session was yesterday, and it has been a truly bittersweet experience. As we all said our good-byes, one of the students ran up and gave me the biggest bear hug, and if my legs weren’t as strong as they are, it would’ve been a tackle instead. She tried over and over to give me her apple juice box as a gift and asked if I would come back and visit. That moment has stuck with me since I walked out of the school on that last day.
This experience is one that will be with me for a long time!
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