There is perhaps no greater evidence of the transformative power of education than the moment when a recent college graduate moves from the pupil’s desk to the front of the classroom. These newly minted teachers are the front lines in the battle to provide education for every American child, regardless of geographic location or family income.
Foxfire Buck is one such new teacher. A member of Hamilton’s Class of 2012, Buck moved to New York City immediately after Commencement to begin a two-year position as a Teach for America educator with Achievement First East New York Middle School, a public charter school for underserved populations. The Achievement First network consists of 20 charter schools in New York and Connecticut that believes “that all children, regardless of race or economic status can succeed if they have access to a great education.” Although she was accepted to the University of Maine School of Law, Buck decided to take the position with Teach for America instead.
“I’m not putting any limitations on myself about what I will or will not do right now,” she said.
Buck came to the Hill from Wiscasset, Maine, a town that Buck describes as “being in the backyard” of Colby, Bates and Bowdoin. Despite the abundance of choices in Maine, however, Buck applied Early Decision to Hamilton because of its central New York location and academic reputation. The comparative literature major never took any classes in Hamilton’s education studies program, but knew she was eventually interested in a career in education
As a result, Buck had a strong extracurricular focus on community outreach in local schools. In addition to being a Hispanic studies and a comparative literature Teacher’s Assistant, Buck was able to participate in the Hamilton Association for Volunteering, Outreach, and Charity’s (HAVOC) program at Johnson Park Center, a community development organization in Utica’s Cornhill neighborhood, where she regularly interacted with at-risk youth.
“It was definitely a similar demographic to the one I’ll be working with in Brooklyn,” she said. “I found the work to be extremely positive and rewarding.”
Additionally, Buck oversaw the transfer of another popular HAVOC project, Drop Everything and Read (DEAR) from its original location at Sauquoit Valley Elementary School to Clinton Elementary School. Buck’s energetic attitude was a key element in the smooth transition. “There were a lot of meetings, but after that, we just jumped in and started tutoring,” she said.
To prepare for the beginning of the upcoming school year, Buck has had to obtain her New York State teacher’s certification in just a few months—a far shorter time than most new teachers, who take years to prepare for their certification exams. Buck confesses that the process is sometimes “frustrating.”
“But you know what you’re getting into,” she added. “It’s challenging, but that’s why you do it.”
The application process for Teach for America includes a day-long interview at one of the organization’s member schools, which includes classroom observations as well as a presentation of a sample lesson. The process is often grueling. “You have to be on your toes the whole time,” Buck said. “Even when you’re doing classroom observations, the teachers are also observing you!”
Buck intends to challenge both herself and her students come fall: in addition to her fledgling teaching career, she plans to simultaneously pursue a master’s degree in education through the Relay Graduate School of Education, a groundbreaking program chartered in 2011.
As to what the distant future holds, Buck is unsure but optimistic. “I have no idea how the classroom will affect me,” she said. “If I had to guess, I think I’ll catch the teaching bug. I feel like this is where my career is moving toward.