Westmont Magazine Teaching for America
Lessita Lorin ’05 had a lot of competition when she applied for her first job: 17,000 other brand new college graduates wanted one of the 2,900 prestigious positions. Such immense interest meant only 16 percent of the applicants — including Lessita — got hired.
This highly selective group of graduates won’t be getting rich or famous, however. They have made a two-year commitment with Teach for America to teach students in urban and rural public schools no one else wants to teach.
“I always knew I wanted to be a teacher,” says Lessita, who majored in Spanish at Westmont. She studied in Ecuador for a year and taught English there. For her Spanish practicum, she worked at Cesar Chavez Charter School in Santa Barbara.
“I love kids,” she says. “I want to teach them life lessons as well as math and reading. My goal is to give them a good foundation so they can go to college. I want my students to have options in life.”
Just weeks after graduation, Lessita started training with Teach for America in Houston, Tex. She taught summer school every day and went to classes in the evening, putting in long days. On Aug. 1, she moved to Phoenix, Ariz., where she teaches science and social studies to sixth-grade students at Maurice Cash Elementary School.
“It’s a daunting responsibility,” Lessita says. “I am completely in charge of what the students learn. I can only accomplish what they accomplish. I can put in long hours, but unless they learn something, I’m not doing my job.”
Being fluent in Spanish has been an asset for her. Not only can she converse in the native language of many students, but she can communicate with their parents as well. “Speaking Spanish has gotten me through some uncomfortable situations,” she says. “It has helped me create a bond with my students.”
At Westmont, Lessita volunteered with Spring Break in the City for two years and served as a resident assistant as a sophomore and as assistant resident director as a senior. She spent her junior year in Ecuador.
She’s too busy to look too far in the future. “I will definitely do something with kids,” she says. “That’s where my heart is.” She may stay in Phoenix or look for a teaching job overseas. Whatever she decides, she will get support from the Teach for America network. There are thousands of alumni across the country in a variety of professions who understand the needs of public schools and, like Lessita, want to make a difference in children’s lives.