What is the most powerful part of the Fellows Program?
Zach Travis: Because the Blueprint program model has Fellows working with students in small groups, every single student at my school with a Fellow had a relationship with an adult in the building. This is powerful because many students will get lost in a classroom of 20 students, but still need that adult relationship to feel a connection to the school. It also means that there were 28 extra advocates for the students in the building.
What is the hardest part?
Zach Travis: Accepting all the things you do not have control over. Students will come to you with problems (no heat at home, parent issues, having to walk 1.5 miles to and from school, etc.) and you will try to help them, but sometimes there is nothing you can do to help. It is so frustrating to watch your kids struggle with issues and have those issues bleed over into instructional time.
Tell me about the students you work with. What changes have you seen in them throughout the year?
Zach Travis: All of my students are generous, loyal, and kind. However, one of the saddest parts of coming to Kepner is witnessing the complete lack of pride these kids have in their academics. Many of my kids have failed every math class they have had since 4th grade without any consequences. As a result, many of these kids will not care anymore if they fail. Many students just randomly guessed on multiple choice tests. The accomplishment I am most proud of this year is witnessing my kids begin to care about academics again. We discussed the importance of math, used rewards systems including calling parents for positive results, and held high expectations for effort and by the end of the year saw a drastic change in many of the student’s work ethic and pride. I had kids work hard for two hours on a test that they would have spent 20 minutes on earlier in the year.
What are the other Fellows at your school like? What is it like working together?
Zach Travis: The Fellows at Kepner were a talented and diverse group. It was an enjoyable experience working with all of them. The thing that impressed me the most was everyone’s willingness to help. If someone was having a rough day with their students, then 5 Fellows would be there to help support them emotionally. It was great to have such knowledgeable and helpful Fellows going through the experience at the same time.
Would you recommend the Blueprint Fellows Program to others? Who would you recommend the program for? Why?
Zach Travis: I would absolutely recommend the Blueprint Fellows Program for anybody. But anyone applying to the program needs to be ready to commit to a year of service and focused on trying to help the kids as much as possible. This job is both rewarding and difficult. The experience will change you just as much as it changes the kids.