Teach For America (TFA) is the national non-profit organization committed to the idea that one day, all children will attain an excellent education. To this end, the organization partners with communities to inspire the next generation of leaders, to address unequal educational opportunities that fall along the lines of race and class. Participant educators begin this lifelong work with an initial two-year commitment to teach in some of the nation’s most underserved schools. Here in the Rio Grande Valley, 61 corps members work in seven districts across the region.
Reagan Olguin is a 2019 TFA corps member who teaches 11th grade physics at Edcouch-Elsa High School. We asked Reagan a few questions about his journey to education and how he educates students beyond the classroom.
What motivated you to apply to join Teach For America and choose to teach in the Rio Grande Valley?
I am where I am today because of the great coaches, teachers, and mentors I’ve had throughout my life. In college, I was struggling to find a path that felt meaningful. I always thought back to the people who pushed me towards getting an education, and I decided that I wanted to be that person for someone else. That led me to teach back here in the community where I was raised.
What has been one of the most surprising things you’ve come to learn about education during your time as a classroom leader?
Even though I teach Physics, I’m always looking for ways to educate my students beyond that one subject. One area I like to focus on with them is personal finance. I’ve always been surprised that money management is not explicitly covered in school, when it is a key responsibility of going into the “real world.” I’m aware of the reality that many people live paycheck to paycheck, and I do not want that for my students’ futures. In my classroom, I always try to educate my students about personal finance, the importance of saving for retirement from an early age, living within and even below your means, how to build credit, and how to invest.
If you could change one thing for your students, what would it be?
I would love for more project/internship-based classes offered for my students. I feel that so many students don’t see the connection of getting an education and pursuing their passion, because they need more outlets to find the things they love. I believe that if students had more opportunities to explore their communities, careers in their communities, and themselves, they would find a passion somewhere that would lead them to higher education, whether it be some sort of trade school or a more traditional university.
At a time when more people recognize the inequity of education in public schools, Teach For America has an important role to play. What do you view as Teach For America’s role in creating systemic change?
The role of Teach For America is to serve communities and advocate for more equitable education across the United States. Lasting change starts with the teachers that are placed in the classroom, and TFA ensures they are passionate and committed to serving students and their communities.
Can you share an anecdote or personal experience from your classroom or school?
At Edcouch Elsa High School we have an allotted amount of time for breakfast, and during that time I like to show my students news from all around the world. I have them write about the current events that they just watched. To them, it may just be some writing activity, but I really enjoy reading their thoughts and what they have to say about the world. I do miss it now that we’re not in the classroom.