Featured Adolescence Education Student

Rebeca Ramirez '18

Rebeca RamirezMathematics Adolescence Education Major
2017 Practice Makes Perfect Fellow

"This past summer I worked with an organization called Practice Makes Perfect (PMP), whose mission is to provide high-quality academic summer programming to students in high-need communities."

A Real Classroom Experience

"Practice Makes Perfect's vision is to redefine summer learning for all children. The problem over the summer is the 'summer slide.' Students who are not engaged lose about two-to-three months of what they learned the year before. As a result, teachers can spend up to six weeks reteaching old material.

"This summer slide disproportionately affects children living in low-income neighborhoods, and research has shown that ⅔ of the academic achievement gap can be attributed to unequal access to summer learning opportunities. Practice Makes Perfect works as a  full-service summer school operator that partners directly with schools to provide high-quality academic summer programming. It has a near-peer mentorship model, which places elementary and middle school students with older, high-achieving mentors from the same community.

"Classrooms are lead by teaching fellows, aspiring educators currently enrolled in college, and are are guided by a teaching coach — an experience teacher. Put this all together and you get a great summer full of fun summer learning experiences. 

"I had the great honor of being selected as a teaching fellow, one of 1,200 applicants. The application process was lengthy and rigorous, and the job just as demanding but so rewarding. I was literally a real teacher for the summer! I got to go in a few days before the classes started to decorate my classroom, I was in touch with parents, I was lesson planning every week, I created my own tests and quizzes. I was grading on the train ride home, I had to attend professional development meetings. I cried, I laughed, I got frustrated, I was happy and I would go home with marker stains on my hand, chalk on my pants and random stickers on my shirt, but with an indescribable feeling in my heart because I was finally doing what I wanted to do in life!

"I was assigned a sixth grade class in Far Rockaway and taught Rates and Ratios for the summer. I taught two math classes a day, sixth grade boys and sixth grade girls. In addition to that, I taught my sixth grade boys coding as their elective using a program called Scratch.

"I absolutely love math, but teaching it is so different. I had to step into the shoes of a sixth grader and see the content through their eyes, attempt a problem with the knowledge that they have gained so far in life." 

"Lesson planning was one of the most difficult tasks I had over the summer. I went in with very little experience, but my teaching coach gave me valuable feedback and resources to help me improve. My teaching coach would sit with me and my laptop at the end of the day and lesson plan with me — telling me what I needed to add or remove, helping me time the parts of my lessons, modify certain parts for the boys or girls class, helping me assess my students throughout the lesson not just at the end and helping me make my lesson as fun as possible. I have not yet mastered the art of lesson planning but I know that with everything my teaching coach taught me I will surely get there. 

"I think the most rewarding part of the summer was the relationships that I built with my students, and the mentors I had in my classroom. I got to see my students grow and gain confidence; one day I will never forget is the day a girl told me 'Ms. Ramirez, math was fun today because I understood it!' This is my goal as a teacher — to show my students that math can be understood, it can be taught in your learning style and once it is understood there is no need to fear it but rather love it!

"Teaching is a difficult job. I only taught from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. but I was there at 8 a.m., the latest, and never left the school before 3 p.m. There is so much preparation before you execute a lesson, there is so much that you have to review after to assure that the end day is better, that you are a better teacher the next day so that your students can be better. I learned so much this summer and experienced so many things just from teaching for five weeks. I was a real teacher and I know this will only help me as I finish my senior year here at St. Joe's.

"One final thought that I took away from this summer is that you can never give up as a teacher. There are going to be days when your lesson is awesome, there are going to be day when your lesson was horrible and you didn't even follow your lesson plan because that just wasn't going to work for the class and their learning styles. There are going to be days you go home with a huge smile and there are going to be days you go home crying. But what I remind myself, and I hope other teachers always remember, is that if you tried you cannot possibly fail.

"Every morning you have to go in the classroom giving 100 percent with the goal in your mind that you can influence all of your students — not some — because students give back what they get and if they see you giving them your all, they will respect that, and you.

"I so happy that Practice Makes Perfect gave me this opportunity and I can only wait to see what the future holds for me as a teacher!"