Four years ago, I got really lucky. My senior year of college, I got accepted into Teach For America, and I was placed in Phoenix. They don’t call it the Valley of the Sun for nothing–rent is cheap, hiking, biking, and golf are awesome, and great restaurants and bars are plentiful. I got hired to work at Vista College Prep, and at first I wasn’t sure what it would be like working at a school in its first year. What I experienced was much like working at a startup. We all wore a lot of hats to make sure things got done, worked incredibly hard, and became a family. I felt even luckier to have been hired at VCP in such a critical year.
That year, my first graders came to me an average two years below grade level. They did not know their letter names or letter sounds, and many could not spell their own names correctly. But they had an unbridled enthusiasm for learning, and each day we worked harder and harder together. Two years later, my students took the state assessment for the first time. That same group of scholars, the ones who came to Vista College Prep two years below grade level in first grade, outperformed the state average by 24% in math and 56% in reading. And while I initially considered myself lucky to have achieved such great results with my students, I quickly realized luck had very little to do with it. It wasn’t luck but rather years of hard work on the part of the third grade scholars and their families and the entire VCP staff. We had built a culture where hard work and enthusiasm were emphasized by everyone on campus, and our scholars’ amazing results reinforced that everything we were doing was worth it.
While VCP’s scholars have continued to have amazing results, that’s not the only the only reason I keep coming back to Vista College Prep, year after year. I keep coming back because I love being part of an incredible organization that is only continuing to grow. I feel supported by every stakeholder in our school community: our families and students, my peers on staff, and our administration. I am pushed every day to be the best I can, and I learn so much from those around me. There are some other perks, too: small class sizes (just 21 kids per class), snacks and coffee for staff members provided by the school, and other amazing surprises like attending a Diamondbacks game in a suite to make us feel appreciated throughout the year.
I was lucky to be hired at Vista College Prep four years ago, but it’s everyone’s hard work, not luck, that has created the wonderful school we have today. As we continue to grow and add grades, I’m excited to be joined by more teachers who I hope will feel as lucky as I do to work so hard for our students every day.
This guest post was written by Sam Shapiro, Manager of Special Projects at Vista College Prep, a OneTeacher partner school. To learn more about Vista College Prep, click here and to apply for our amazing educator opportunities, click here!