Why is TFA in SD? Why do I need a Go Fund Me?

It may seem odd to some people back home that Teach for America is placing in Bureau of Indian Education (BIE) schools and it may seem even odder to people back home that I’ve created a Go Fund Me to help financially support the upstart of my classroom…But, let me share some real-life facts with you all about the reality my students face daily here in Pine Ridge:

Education Stats:

  • Only 25.5% of students at Loneman were considered proficient or advanced in ELA in 2014
  • Only 9.63% of students at Loneman were considered proficient or advanced in math in 2014
  • In 2014, South Dakota’s total high school graduation rate was 82.74%, for white students it was 88.49%, and for Native students it was only 46.98%
  • The average total composite ACT score in South Dakota in 2012 was 21.8, however for Native students the average was only 16.2
  • Almost two-thirds (63 percent) of AI/AN eighth-graders report never talking to a school counselor about classes for high school or about what they wanted to do after high school
  • According to a Bureau of Indian Affairs report, the Pine Ridge Reservation schools are in the bottom 10% of school funding by U.S. Department of Education and the Bureau of Indian Affairs
  • The teacher turnover rate is 800% that of the U.S. national average

Daily Life Stats:

  • 97% of of the population in Pine Ridge live below federal poverty line
  • The unemployment rate vacillates from 85% to 95% on the Reservation
  • The infant mortality rate is the highest on this continent and is about 300% higher than the U.S. national average.
  • The shortest average life expectancy for any community in the Western Hemisphere outside Haiti, according to The Wall Street Journal
  • The median income in the Pine Ridge Reservation is approximately $2,600 per year
  • Teenage suicide rate in the Pine Ridge Reservation is 150% higher than the U.S. national average for this age group
  • The rate of diabetes on the Reservation is reported to be 800% higher than the U.S. national average
  • The death rate from alcohol-related problems on the Reservation is 300% higher than the remaining US population
  • There is a large homeless population on the Reservation, but most families never turn away a relative no matter how distant the blood relation. Consequently, many homes have large numbers of people living in them.
  • Alcoholism affects eight out of ten families on the Reservation.

And if you’re interested in learning more this article is a good source from Education Week: http://www.edweek.org/ew/projects/2013/native-american-education/running-in-place.html

I don’t share these statistics to make you pity my students. I share this information so that you realize the real life situations all children and teenagers in this area face on a daily basis. YET, they are still smiling and trying. These kids are so resilient that it truly amazes me and I hope you find their resilience just as inspiring.





National Indian Education Study: July 2012




Why am I here?

“Why are you here?” was a question posed to the 2016 SoDak Core Members and when it was first asked I wasn’t sure how to answer.

I can tell you why I want to teach. I can tell you why I think education is important. I can tell you why I want to have classroom experience before going back to get a masters and work in the policy field. I can tell you why I chose to apply for and accept a position with TFA. I can tell you why I love the state of South Dakota. HoBadlandViewswever, I couldn’t adequately answer why I am here.

So naturally, this question has just been stuck in my mind for past four days and has really been driving me crazy. So, bear with me as I try to formulate answer.

One of my new neighbors will actually be in my class this year and while we’ve now had quite a few conversations together the one that has stuck out to me the most if one we had two nights ago. We were chatting about dogs and summer and out of nowhere she looks at me and says, “you know, I’ve got goals. I want to join the military someday.” The reason this statement has stuck with me so much is because I know these students have goals. I know they have big dreams, even if they haven’t quite realized them yet. I know that when I was in the 6th grade I was already thinking about college and what would come next for me after college.

I believe it’s never too early to start thinking about career goals and I want to be here for my 6th grade students to help them realize their goals if they haven’t already as well as help them get on the path they need to achieve those dreams.

It sounds lofty and cliche, but I want Ms. Dorrell’s sixth grade class to be a class full of dreamers. A class who recognizes their own individual potentials. A class who is dedicated to making their dreams come true.

I’m not here to be a savior for these kids. I’m not here to be best the teacher these kids have ever had. I’m not here to make myself feel good.

These students matter. Plain and simple. These students have dreams and as a teacher it is my job to help them be able to reach for and achieve those dreams.

A Different Kind of July 4th

I know is two days late, but forgive me because I didn’t have a working computer for the entire weekend and it’s not like being on campus where I can take out a loaner from The Bridge while my own is being fixed 😦

I just wanted to do a quick recap of my trip to the beautiful Lake Havasu, but also to talk about how this Independence Day was a little different for me.13615045_2948457681828_6059164491096282072_n

First, let’s start with the trip! Lake Havasu is absolutely beautiful and it still amazes me how something so gorgeous can just exist in the middle of the desert.

A group of 11 of us from the SoDak core went together and we spent majority of the day on Saturday at the lake. We actually rented a pontoon boat for two hours which was well worth the price to be away from the crowds on the shoreline. I couldn’t have imagined a more perfect Saturday not having to think about lesson plans or my move in date in August. It was a
much needed break from the buzzing life at institute. We ventured off road on 13606455_2948446041537_959843952142945628_nSaturday evening to spend a picturesque spot to watch the sunset over the lake (pictured above) and I would argue that we definitely picked the best spot. After a tiring day in the sun Saturday, we turned in early and left Sunday morning to head back to Tempe.

While I did enjoy my weekend getaway and I’m never ashamed to rep the colors of the U.S. flag, I must admit that this Independence Day had a bit of a different connotation for me knowing that I’ll be moving to live in Pine Ridge in a few short weeks. I am proud to be an American and I can’t imagine having grown up anywhere else and I think that it is okay to celebrate July 4th. BUT, I think it is wrong to assume that Independence Day means independence for everyone. I certainly won’t claim to be an expert and would never try to, but that won’t stop me from expressing my opinions here.

It seems pretty clear to me that even today not everyone is treated equal and maybe this is something we as humans won’t ever be able to achieve, but it doesn’t mean we can ignore this fact. In 1776, white lang-owning men became free. I will continue to celebrate the 4th of July, but I will not pretend that freedom for everyone came in 1776 or that everyone has equal freedom today. I don’t really want to write an entire novel on my feelings about this in this space, but if you want to talk please reach out – I’d love to hear other opinions and challenges to my own.

So, raise a glass and cheers to the United States. Rock your red, white, and blue. Just don’t pretend that we’re done fighting for freedom.


Becky and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

Well, I taught for a whole week! And surprisingly it went very well 🙂

I only had between four and six students every day which was nice, but I know it won’t be the same in the fall. We’re really just covering basic literature terms like plot, setting, characters, and the like. So, it’s been fun applying these concepts to Holes. My students informed me that they haven’t read a novel in class (they’re entering 7th grade) so I’m excited to read one of my favorites with them.

So, far it seems like they’re enjoying the story. Most of them have seen the movie, so there won’t be any major plot twists for them. BUT, it’s still wonderful to hear them read aloud from a real novel rather than just short stories.

I spent the weekend watching Finding Dory and swimming at the pool near campus. The heat was intense (apparently the hottest it’s been in like twenty years), but it is a dry heat so it wasn’t much compared to the hot, humid summers of NC

So, maybe you’re wondering why the title of this post is what it is…

Well, let me tell you about today. Oh, Mondays.

I didn’t sleep well and then when my alarm when off at 4:51AM I woke up with a stuffy nose and a sinus headache. I didn’t want to go to school, but I knew it wasn’t really an option. I went and ate breakfast, I loaded the bus, and then I arrived at Skyline around 6:45AM.

When I got to school I was reminded of the student survey we’d be required to give in class today – cutting our (already short) instructional time. Not only did we need to take time to let students complete the survey, but we had to read EVERY question and EVERY multiple choice answer aloud to students. It took awhile to say the least….

I was NOT feeling well and I was NOT in a good mood.

BUT, then my students reminded me why I’m here. I only had two students today – probably because of the excessive heat and the fact that many of them have to walk a mile to get to their bus stop – but these two students showed me why as a teacher even coming to school on one of your “bad days” can turn into a positive situation.

My two seventh grade boys and I worked on comparing and contrasting characters. First, by comparing and contrasting them and then applying it to Holes. There were laughs shared and we had a good time while also learning the concept.

It was really in PE class the next period that I had my A-Ha moment. You see, every Monday I have “PE assistantship.” I was watching my two students play basketball with the other seventh graders and they were smiling and excited. And I was reminded why even on my “bad days” I need to come to school…

My students, even these ones I’ve just met a week ago, count on me. They’re counting on me to be here every day. So, I’m going to take short trip to Target and buy some sinus relief medication and hopefully feel better in the morning. And hopefully this will be the last of my terrible, horrible, no good, very bad days.

While, I’m sure that there will actually be more in reality – especially come August – I now have a new outlook on my bad days and how unimportant they are to my student’s learning

You Can Call Me Chaco

The first week of institute is over and I’ll actually start teaching on Monday (tomorrow!) #NervousButExcited

But, I want to detour from tales of TFA to tell you another story…

There were two roads diverged in the woods and WE took the one less traveled by.

I assume most people recognize these words from Robert Frost’s poem “The Road Not Taken.” While this poem is definitely my favorite and I always try to apply its message to my life choices, I must admit that literally living it out is not quite a fun experience…

Yesterday, a small group of us decided to venture out to find this natural pool that was about an hour and a half from ASU’s campus. After our drive, we arrived at the entrance and parking lot. We saw a good number of cars, lots of children, and a few dogs on leashes.

We noticed there were two separate trails from the parking lot and foolishly went to the right trail (meaning the direction, not correct). This trail took us on a trek an hour into the woods with no “real” path. This is where I earned the nickname “Chaco.” Apparently, simply wearing Chacos while the rest of the group was in flip-flops and Toms made me the leader of the pack and the chosen one to go ahead and check for an actual path. After hiking in the wrong direction for about an hour and running into more and more difficult paths we decided to turn around and go back out the way we came because we had obviously chosen the wrong way (lesson #1: learn when to admit you’re wrong).

After what seems like multiple hours to get into the woods, it only took us a few minutes to find out way back out to the parking lot. We then chose the right (correct) trail to the left and after about a half mile we found the Water Wheel water falls and enjoyed relaxing and cooling off after such an….adventurous….day.

This trek really taught me a cheesy lesson about life. We chose the road less traveled and it turned out to be hard and not nearly as fun as the correct trail, but the whole time our group was lost in the woods we leaned on each other for support and affirmation. It would have been very easy for one or all of us to become frustrated and get angry with someone or the whole group. Instead, we kept our heads up, we followed the river, and eventually made it to our final destination.


As I’m embarking on a new two year journey with thirty (used to be) strangers, I’m blessed to know that I can lean on them for support. Yesterday’s adventure was (to me) a foreshadowing of the next two years:

We’re going to face challenges inside and outside of the classroom

We’re going to get lost

We’re going to take a few detours

But, in the end we’re all here for one another and hopefully will continue to be for the next two years. The end goal of educational equity in our country is not something an individual can tackle alone. It’s not something our South Dakota core can tackle. It’s not something TFA can tackle.

BUT, the fight for educational equity is something that I am proud to be a part of and I’m very honored to be working for that common goal with everyone surrounding me

I’m excited to begin my time in the classroom tomorrow and I’ll be sure to update everyone with how the actual TFA process is going!




Travel to Phoenix and the Summer Ahead

Hey y’all! I know it’s been awhile (again) but they really have kept us busy since I got to South Dakota on May 29th. I got to Phoenix, AZ on Sunday after spending a week in SD.

We left SoDak on Friday to begin our journey to Arizona and we were fortunate enough to make some amazing stops along the way. We stopped in Denver, CO Friday Night where we ate at a local restaurant called Linger that actually used to be a mortuary.

After spending the night in a IMG_0299very…sketchy…hotel we got back on the road and made a pit stop at Garden of the Gods. This place was truly incredible with beautiful views, pictures really don’t do it justice but I included some in here anyways to give y’all a small glimpse into what I saw.

After this stop, we got back into the car and drove all the way to Albuquerque, New Mexico to stay the night. We had dinner at a restaurant called El Patio and it truly was the best margarita and the best (New) Mexican food that I had ever eaten. Sunday morning, we woke up to finish the last leg of our drive to make it to Phoenix, but of course we had to make one more stop: The Petrified Forest (this is also where the Painted Desert is located). Once again, I was completely awestruck and blown away by the beauty of our nation and just astounded at how far I could see without a tall building coming into view.

Moving back to TFA related things, I found out that in the fall I’ll be teaching at Loneman School in Oglala, SD in the Pine Ridge Reservation. For the summer, I’ll be teaching 7th grade literature at Skyline which is located within a reservation in Arizona. I’m excited to be reading Holes by Louis Sachar with my class! I wrote my first lesson plan today (woohoo!) and I’m excited to use this piece of literature to teach my students important ELA themes.

If you have any tips/tricks/suggestions to teaching middle school or Holes please e-mail me or contact me on Facebook! I’ll take all the help I can get 🙂

Till next time!

Little Bit of Catch Up

So, I know it’s been awhile but unfortunately I haven’t had wifi for a few days…I’m going to try my best to catch y’all up without writing a crazy long novel

We spent the first day of induction at CAIRNS where we spent the day learning about Native American culture, the Lakota language, and some history of the surrounding area. This day really was a whirlwind, but I learned so much and I look forward to learning more as I continue my time here in South Dakota. IMG_0267.JPG

On Tuesday, we traveled out to the Health Administrative Building and learned some about the TFA mission. Later, my group traveled to the Boys and Girls club in Mission, SD. This was truly an amazing place (undergoing a lot of renovations) where kids can go after school and get a healthy meal and academic help is needed.

What has really preventeIMG_0292 (1).JPGd me from updating this blog was Tuesday night a girl named Allison and I traveled to Oglala, SD for an interview at a school. We spent all day Wednesday exploring the surrounding areas, including The Badlands, and connecting with community members. It w
as so nice to actually meet members of the community and kids in the area. There really is something special about the way kids love in these communities and I get more and more excited every day that I get to be a part of it.

Tomorrow afternoon we start our journey to Phoenix, AZ where I will have the chance to get some classroom experience working summer school. Check back for more 🙂


Day 1 of Driving Top 10

It didn’t take very long for my NC license plate to become the minority on the road, but it did take quite awhile for me to reach my hotel and finally relax for the night. I figured I’d share with you my top lessons for today:

  1. I have an unexplainable need to say “cow” or “horse” whenever I drive by one – even with no one in the car with me
  2. Driving alone for 8 hours is no fun, but on the plus side there’s no one there to make fun of my bad dancing and singing skills
  3. Virginia has by the far the worst drivers I’ve ever encountered (seriously, worse than NC drivers)
  4. Cracker Barrel makes a great lunch stop even when you’re alone (go just for the apple butter)
  5. Pennsylvania’s roads make zero sense (if it’s a toll road, it should be nice…right?)
  6. VA drivers like to go under the speed limit, PA drivers like to go way, way, wayyyy over it
  7. There are random, beautiful mansions in the middle of nowhere USA
  8. Gas is not in fact cheaper when you leave NC (sad face)
  9. When in doubt, call dad with car troubles
  10. Chick Fil A makes the best comfort food dinner after a long day of driving

Tomorrow I’ll start the longer part of my trip to SoDak with April, check back for updates!c81ce35a-81b1-4391-98aa-391210704aad

Why Teach for America?

It’s probably not surprising to most people that I have a desire to work in education considering the fact that both my parents and all three of my older siblings are all involved in education in some way. However, what some people may find surprising is why I chose to appteach-for-america2.pngly for TFA and why I chose to accept a position teaching in South Dakota.

Going in to college, I wanted to graduate and then go straight on to law school. I strongly believe that your time at college is meant to challenge your views and shape your opinions. Wake Forest did just that and more. My desire to go into education really began my junior when I took a politics of public education class as part of my politics and international affairs major. This course really opened my eyes to the many, many issues that exist in our nation’s education system. This class (along with some first-hand experience in a law firm) changed my life plans. It made me realize that my passions no longer lied in law, but in helping students achieve all the can and working to improve the status of our education system as a whole.

Enter, Teach for America.

This program really came to my attention at a time when I was confused about where to go next. I knew I didn’t want to invest three years and a lot of money into law school when I was now unsure about whether or not I actually wanted to become an attorney. However, I had come to this realization too late to take the GRE and apply for grad school programs.

While I want to eventually return to school and earn my Masters in Public in Policy with a focus on education I truly believe that the best way to know what students, teachers, and administrators need is to get real life, in the classroom experience. So, I sent in my application for TFA. I got a phone interview, I got an in person interview, and then I found out I was accepted into the program and had been placed in South Dakota to teach elementary school.

I was thrilled to get into the program, but I’ll be honest and say that I was hesitant about accepting my placement in SoDak. But, the more I learned about the region, the more I realized this is where I need to be. I’m thrilled to be embarking on this new journey and to share all the change I’m about to encounter with you all! I head out tomorrow and I hope y’all check back for updates and lots and lots of pictures