My path to the classroom began in college, with a realization: When deciding their careers, my peers would often name what they wanted to be—a lawyer, a doctor, a scientist—but I noticed they rarely focused on what they wanted to do each day. During my time as a volunteer at an elementary school in Syracuse, New York, I realized that I loved doing everything that teaching involved, from planning engaging lessons to collaborating with other teachers. But mostly, I loved the fact that teaching allows you to clearly see the tangible impact that you have each day. 

Volunteering in the Syracuse City School District led me to apply for Teach for America. When I was accepted and started to interview at schools, KIPP NJ stood out to me as an organization that aligned with my values and desire to work in a highly collaborative environment. When I interviewed, I was impressed with the dedication and vision of my future principal, Princess Williams.

Fast forward to today, and I am in my second year of teaching as a Teacher in Residence at KIPP SPARK Academy. What strikes me most about SPARK is how each teacher brings a unique energy to their classroom. In my classroom, we prioritize collaboration. My students actively engage in the learning process through Socratic discussions, making the classroom space their own and contributing their ideas. Students will work in groups to create anchor charts for visual learning, and I encourage them to offer feedback to one another on their ideas, reinforcing the idea that we all have something to contribute.

One of the joys of teaching for me is the opportunity to teach literacy. Third grade is a crucial transition period, where the focus shifts from phonics-based instruction to working on written responses and empowering students to pick their own books. Reading and writing represent liberation. I remember discovering Judy Blume's books as a child, which helped me find my sense of self and resulted in a lifelong love of literature and reading. I want the same for my students. 

While teaching has been a fulfilling experience, that doesn’t mean it’s free of challenges. It can be difficult to support each child’s unique needs in a classroom. But I’ve found the antidote to that challenge is the support of my colleagues. If I’m having trouble reaching a student who’s going through a tough time, I can call on other teachers who might have a stronger relationship with that student, and they’ll offer the support they need to get back on track. 

That support also translates into my own development as an educator. I’ve had the privilege of learning from excellent teachers as a Teacher in Residence. Last year, I was paired with Camilya Gunter, who gave me insight into her classroom management style. This year, I'm working with Quiana Drummond, an excellent literacy teacher, and her guidance has added numerous tools to my teaching toolkit; she has helped me execute engaging lessons and encourage students to own their learning. My coach Alexandria Beckford continues to support me and help me grow in teaching. The guidance of these colleagues has been an invaluable resource. 

I am grateful for the opportunity to learn alongside my coworkers each day at SPARK. I want every child to feel seen for who they are and receive the attention and support they need to thrive in our classrooms and in their futures. 

Taylor Scarpa graduated from Syracuse University with a B.A. in Policy Studies, and a B.A. in Citizenship and Civic Engagement, and a minor in Public Communication Studies. She is a  Teach for America Corps member who is pursuing her master of arts in teaching at RELAY Graduate School of Education. 

Taylor Scarpa (right) and her mentor Quiana Drummond (left) show off their hallway bulletin board at KIPP SPARK Elementary School.

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