Meet 2 Aspiring D.C. Public School Teachers In This College’s Inaugural Class Of ‘Ready-to-Go’ Post-COVID Educators

Meet 2 Aspiring D.C. Public School Teachers in This College’s Inaugural Class of ‘Ready-to-Go’ Post-COVID Educators

For Chloe Ifill, a prospective teacher in Washington, D.C., witnessing the pandemic disrupt the education of her friends and family has been a sobering reminder that her future profession will be far from easy.

As a college freshman at American University, Ifill has seen her friend become homeless and drop out of school due to the overwhelming workload. She has also observed her peers struggle to balance responsibilities like taking care of younger siblings with their academic duties.

Ifill has come to realize that the main challenge for teachers today is effective communication and understanding, as well as accommodating students’ individual circumstances.

At just 18 years old, Ifill is part of the inaugural class of Teaching Fellows through American University’s Teacher Pipeline Project. This partnership with D.C. Public Schools aims to create a diverse workforce, addressing the high turnover rate of less-experienced teachers in the city.

However, the Teaching Fellows have started their journey during a pandemic that has necessitated a shift to virtual learning nationwide. This has reshaped the roles and skills required of teachers.

The COVID-19 crisis has also led some teachers to consider leaving the profession, while studies predict an increased demand for educators due to social distancing measures and smaller class sizes.

Dean Cheryl Holcomb-McCoy of AU’s School of Education emphasizes the importance of cultivating local teachers, especially those from underrepresented backgrounds. Currently, over half of new hires come from outside the D.C. area, and early-career teachers have a lower retention rate than their more experienced colleagues. Teaching Fellows will receive ongoing support and coaching once they graduate.

The three current Teaching Fellows are freshmen, expected to gain in-class experiences in the next school year. Holcomb-McCoy’s goal is to offer 10 full scholarships per year to D.C. public school graduates.

To prepare future teachers for post-COVID classrooms, AU is now prioritizing technological proficiency. Teaching Fellows and all teacher candidates are encouraged to obtain Google certifications. The university also emphasizes training in social-emotional learning, equipping students with the skills to work with counselors and nurses to address students’ mental health challenges.

There are discussions about providing Teaching Fellows and teacher candidates with earlier hands-on experience in public schools to assist the increased number of students in need of additional tutoring due to the pandemic.

An EmpowerK12 report reveals that D.C. public school students have experienced significant learning loss during the pandemic, with an average loss of four months in math and one month in reading.

DCPS Chancellor Lewis Ferebee emphasizes the importance of the Pipeline Project in preparing future educators to tackle the challenges of today, including the pandemic and other conflicts.

interviewed two of the three Teaching Fellows from AU about their motivations to become teachers and how the pandemic has influenced their perception of the profession. Their stories can be found below.

Chloe Ifill recalls several aspects of her public school education that left an impression on her. One is the early mornings, waking up before dawn and commuting from Ward 7 to Ward 3 for school. Another is her disappointment with the limited focus on Black history in her curriculum.

She recalls that in her AP U.S. History class, the coverage of significant events like Emmett Till’s lynching and the trials of the Scottsboro Boys was lacking. Instead, the curriculum seemed to jump from slavery to Martin Luther King Jr. This experience left Ifill questioning why she had to rely on her mother for a more comprehensive understanding of history while sitting in an English or history classroom.

Ifill, who aspires to teach English to 11th or 12th graders, explained that her frustrations motivated her decision to pursue a career in education. She is determined to ensure that these stories are told and to advocate for the inclusion of Black literature, Black history, and Black accomplishments in school curricula.

While COVID-19 has not hindered her determination, it has highlighted some of the challenges she may face in her future profession. Specifically, she recognizes the need to balance addressing students’ individual needs while adhering to the curriculum and testing requirements.

She stated, "I believe that teachers want to be understanding, but they also want to meet the expectations of their superiors and complete all the necessary work. However, how do we achieve this when each student has a unique situation? Many students’ home lives greatly impact their ability to complete their school work."

Despite these challenges, Ifill expressed her desire to be the kind of teacher who goes the extra mile to accommodate those who learn differently. She aims to create alternative plans to support these students.

The pandemic has also emphasized the resilience required to be a teacher, especially in unprecedented circumstances like these. Ifill finds inspiration in witnessing teachers adapt during these uncertain times. She believes that this adaptability is not only essential for educators but also a vital part of adulthood; knowing how to keep moving forward even when things do not go as planned.

Teaching has always come naturally to Ladino, as she is the oldest sibling and has a mother who speaks limited English. Growing up in Ward 1, Ladino’s mom would often ask her to help her younger brother with his assigned books. Ladino fondly recalls, "My mom would leave the kitchen, and I would be the one reading the books to him." Even last year, she would read to her 6-year-old sister and create index cards to help her practice sounds.

However, it was Ladino’s experience helping a former Spanish teacher with after-school work at E.L Haynes Public Charter School that solidified her interest in teaching as a career. As a sophomore, Ladino would spend about 20 to 30 minutes each day assisting the teacher with grading papers, translating materials, and tutoring peers to excel in the AP exam. It was during this time that she decided she wanted to teach high school Spanish or even elementary school math, her favorite subject.

Ladino admitted that at one point during the pandemic, she questioned whether teaching was truly her calling. The transition from high school to virtual college was challenging for her, and as someone who is naturally "shy," she wondered if she could effectively engage and connect with students in virtual or hybrid learning environments. However, her doubts diminished when she stumbled upon an Instagram account of a teacher who had transformed her bedroom into a classroom. Ladino found the teacher’s creativity inspiring and is now determined to create a similar experience for her future students, should virtual learning continue.

In conclusion, both Ifill and Ladino share a deep passion for teaching and a desire to make a difference in the lives of their students. They recognize the challenges that come with their chosen profession, especially during a pandemic, but their determination, resilience, and creativity drive them to overcome these obstacles in order to provide the best education possible.


  • baileywilliams

    Bailey Williams is an educational blogger and school teacher who uses her blog as a way to share her insights and knowledge with her readers. She has been teaching for over 10 years and has a deep understanding of the school system and how to help students reach their goals. Her blog is packed full of helpful information and resources, so be sure to check it out if you're looking for help with your schoolwork!