PIC Interns Serve as Teaching Assistants

De’Leo Ogarro and Shantell Jeter (Boston Green Academy) & Francely Rosario and Rhyland Gillespie (Margarita Muniz Academy/Rafael Hernandez Two-Way Bilingual School)

“I always wanted to be a teacher when I was growing up,” explained De’Leo Ogarro, a senior at the Boston Green Academy (BGA). “I want to come back to BGA, as a product of this school, and be a math teacher, and to give back to my community.”

As a participant in the statewide High School Senior Internship in Education Program (HSSIEP), De’Leo worked with younger students under the supervision of all Shantell Jeter, a physical education teacher at BGA. Across town, Francely Rosario, a senior at the Margarita Muniz Academy, had a very different experience. She spent her internship helping Rhyland Gillespie, a 4th-grade teacher at the Rafael Hernández Two-Way Bilingual School. In total, 56 BPS graduating seniors accepted paid opportunities to serve as teaching assistants, either in-person or virtual. Teacher mentors received a small stipend as a thank you for their participation, generously supported by the Trefler Foundation.

The state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) launched the HSSIEP project in January. Several regional MassHire Workforce Boards, including the PIC, were granted student wage funding to employ high school seniors as teaching assistant interns and in other school support positions. The goal of the program is to introduce graduating seniors to education as a potential career choice in the context of a sustained strategy to diversify teaching and the entire education workforce. In Boston, this strategy includes the BPS Teacher Cadet program and emerging high school career pathways in education, similar to the Teach Boston collaboration with the Boston Teachers Union years ago.

Francely attributes her love for math to her father and the teachers she had growing up.

“I really want to become a math teacher, so I thought it was important to explore what that was like. I wanted to see if this is what I want to do, and it is,” said Francely.

Over the program’s course, she helped develop lesson plans for math, reading, writing, and social studies, created data spreadsheets, took notes, and cared for day-to-day administrative work, which provided more opportunities for Rhyland to engage with her students closely. “I have worked with college students who do not present with the skill, dedication, and poise that she has brought to this internship. She has been a massive help,” complemented Rhyland.

“I have learned that teaching is a beautiful thing. It’s not in a straight line, and there are many aspects, so you have to be very adaptable. During the difficult days, compassion for your students and love for what you’re doing are what keep you going,” explained Francely.

In addition to giving students the opportunities for work-based learning experiences, HSSIEP aims to accelerate the growth of the teacher pipeline in Massachusetts, in alignment with Commissioner Riley’s priority of working to diversify the educator pipeline. The program focuses on increasing racial/ethnic diversity and providing current students, particularly students of color, career exploration opportunities in teaching.

Like many students, De’Leo grew up seeing very few teachers who looked like him in the classroom. “I never really had colored teachers growing up. It’s always just been one side,” he said.

HSSIEP presented an opportunity for De’Leo to experience what it was like to be a teacher and learn under the guidance of Shantell Jeter, a physical education teacher and a woman of color. Shantell shared the same experience as De’Leo and didn’t see many teachers of color. “I think representation is huge. It’s part of the reason why I’m here,” Shantell said. “I see it in the classroom when the kids are excited to see people who look like them. I represent people who come from the same place I did.”

Having played many sports with his siblings, De’Leo said his internship as a physical education teaching assistant came naturally.

“Going to BGA and seeing teachers who look like me, and having teachers who had the same experiences I did growing up—being able to open up and talk to about my feelings. I never had that opportunity when I was younger. I was able to open up and find my voice, and that’s important for the next generation,” De’Leo explained.

The PIC is proud to partner with DESE and with BPS on the initiatives such as the High School Seniors Internship in Education Program that build a pipeline for the next generation of educators by empowering students and aspiring teachers of color with career exploration opportunities.

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