What sets Faith Rodriguez apart from her colleagues at SA Harlem 1? The first-year associate teacher was once an SA scholar herself! Faith began attending SA in 2006 as a first-grade Harlem 1 scholar, and the educational impact was so monumental that Faith returned to teach third grade after graduating from college.
“Success played a huge role in shaping who I am at my core and it only felt right to delve into my passion for education by coming back to the place that made me who I am today,” she shares.
Faith is back in classroom — but without the SA uniform — and took some time to reflect on her experience as a scholar and how her education at SA influenced not only her teaching style but who she is today.
1. What brought you back to SA?
My desire to participate in meaningful work after college is what truly brought me back to Success Academy. My college experience informed my interest in education reform and advocacy. Success Academy was the right place for me to explore that while also learning the on-the-ground work that occurs in the classroom. Lastly, the youth is what brought me back, as they are the real reason I aspire to advance and advocate for an education system that is well equipped to meet the needs of ALL children.
2. Now that you’re back, was it what you expected?
I honestly did not have any expectations other than the rigor of SA that I was used to. It had been years since I last experienced SA culture, and I knew that it would be a learning experience all over again. H1 has changed in so many positive ways since I was a scholar there. When I returned I was pleasantly surprised to see and experience the work that was underway to enhance scholar preparedness through curriculum and classroom management changes. I am so glad to be starting my journey during this significant time for SA.
3. How have things changed from what you remember as a scholar?
Many things are different since I was a scholar at H1. The classrooms and hallways look different from what I remember and the staff is mostly new. The curriculum has become more rigorous, which is great. The presence of two teachers in each classroom is also different; however, I appreciate the new structure as it allows for more in-depth work with the scholars. This year specifically is different from previous years given the Moonshot that we’re now working towards, which has further elevated the school culture in terms of classroom management and intellectual expectations.
4. What made you decide to attend a different high school?
I was around the same people for eight years, and I knew that I wanted to meet new people and challenge myself in new ways. I wanted to attend a high school that was already full instead of a new one that was only going to have a freshman class. Actually, both of my younger sisters attended SA too — Grace and Destiny. Destiny graduated from SA High School of the Liberal Arts in 2019.
5. What do you like to do for fun?
I love to dance and generally move my body, whether it be yoga or exercise. I even led an Afro-Latinx and Latinx dance club on my college campus for the last two years of my college experience.
6. What lessons did you learn from your time outside the SA experience that you now bring to your role as a teacher?
From my time outside of SA I learned a lot about self-awareness, advocacy, and independence. I left SA after completing my eighth grade year, and I was only just exposed to being more independent as I began high school. My high school and college years further developed my ability to self-regulate and challenge myself to grow in emotional, mental, and physical matters. I developed a strong urge to be more self-aware and critical, which stemmed from the ways in which the SA culture set me up to be the best version of myself no matter where I went. I continued to build on that urge, and now pride myself as a teacher who is very critical of herself in a healthy way and who is passionate about guiding her scholars to also be self-aware individuals who strive to be their best selves. Lastly, my college experience — I graduated from Williams College this past June after majoring in Political Economy — specifically taught me the ways in which the education system for underprivileged communities needs reform, and I knew I wanted to play a role in transforming our education system for the sake of our future generations.
7. What has your teaching experience been like so far?
So far my teaching experience has reconnected me with my purpose in this life. This experience has made me a more committed individual who aspires to advance myself, the children, and education as a whole on a daily basis. The most challenging part is accepting that you will not be perfect and that each day is an opportunity to learn and grow in your role so you must give yourself grace while remaining committed to your passions! This experience has humbled me and exposed me to the realities of what it means to be an educator. Some days are overwhelming, and others are a breeze, but no matter what, each day is an opportunity to learn. All in all, being a teacher has taught me what it means to be a student all over again. I’m truly grateful for the experience and all that is yet to come. Cheers to my first year of teaching at a place that was home for me for many years of my youth… it’s all coming full circle now!