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SAGA Innovations

SAGA Fellow Combines Her Passions of Teaching and Social Justice to Impact Students’ Lives
By Jesse Duthrie

In our final installment of this three-part series, we speak with a past Fellow who joined SAGA with a passion for education and social justice. This year-long opportunity to work with students in Chicago and New York gave Lucy a chance to connect with students while helping to narrow the achievement gap. Lucy saw marked improvement from their students, all while gaining real-world experience to serve as the foundation for her future teaching career.  

 

Lucy Knowlton, SAGA Fellow 2016-2017, New York City

Lucy Knowlton grew up in rural Maine and attended Bowdoin College, a small liberal arts college in her home state. She had a passion for teaching but, aware that there was a much bigger world outside of Maine, knew that she wanted to leave home to experience life in a big city. As she looked for teaching opportunities, Lucy found a number of non-profit agencies that gave young college graduates like her an opportunity to teach in a world must faster and busier than her own. Above all the options that she weighed, Lucy decided SAGA had something the others did not.

“By the time I graduated I wanted to be somewhere completely different,” Lucy says. “SAGA appeared to be the perfect way to combine my enthusiasm for working with high school students and my desire to be in New York City.”

Before Lucy knew it, the quiet calm of Maine’s countryside was quickly replaced with the cityscape of the Bronx. Instead of walking around campus with a student body she could easily recognize, Lucy was thrust into the challenge of navigating subways and street numbers. Even more, she had to quickly learn how to tutor students in the Bronx—students not much younger than herself, yet raised in completely different cultures with entirely different ways of life.

What Lucy quickly learned was that her students were highly receptive to tutoring. She credits SAGA’s unique methods with helping to build these connections. Lucy says, “I thought that being able to work very closely with a small set of students would be more effective than diving into full-classroom teaching.”

With SAGA’s 2-1 tutoring system, Lucy built relationships with her students that resonated on a personal level. Although they shared different backgrounds and experiences, she was able to connect with students easier than she imagined, which allowed her to learn about their lives and understand them on a deeper level. Those connections were meaningful, which she recognized in her students results.

“One of my students informed me that she got a 104 on a test after failing the previous one. We celebrated, and I had to hold back tears of joy. I don’t think that I deserve the credit for her exam grade, of course, since she was the one taking the test, but I was just so proud of her accomplishments that I couldn’t help but feel overwhelmed.”

When Lucy’s Fellow position ended in Spring 2017, she moved back to the suburbs of Maine and began substitute teaching. Her passion for teaching is as strong as ever, and she’s able to look back on her time in New York City with experience and lessons that will guide her teaching philosophy for years to come.

“Over the course of my time in New York, the small ‘aha!’ moments were the most rewarding. When a student finally has a concept click or aces a practice problem or correctly teaches their partner a process, it makes all of the time we spend struggling worthwhile.”



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