Callandra S, Cook, or Callie as I always knew her, and I met in 2001. (I know the year because I still have my Teach for America t shirt that says 2001 corps member.) When we met, we both were recent college grads. We both were passionate. We both had signed on to do one of the most challenging jobs in the world: an inner city teacher.
But one thing I know now for certain is that we had not the slightest clue what we had gotten ourselves into nor how much it would change the very fabric of who we were. We had big hearts, sharp minds, and a sense of adventure. TFA had chosen us well, but the choosing was only the beginning.
We sat on the campus of SUNY Maritime in the Bronx beneath the Throgs Neck Bridge in the sun. We stared at the water and chatted about where we had been, who we thought we were, and what might lie ahead. It didn’t matter that we were strangers. It didn’t matter that she was from Ohio and I from NY. It didn’t matter that we had different sexual orientation or racial background. Our paths crossed, and I still remember how fresh and new we were sitting on that concrete wall staring at the great blue expanse of water dotted with a million high rises of the city.
Callie and I did not end up teaching the same grade, or in the same school, or even living in the same neighborhood. Over our two year TFA commitment, we saw each other quite a few times at various events, but our paths drifted apart. She stayed on after the two year commitment and my life took me to Brooklyn, where I continued to teach.
Callie and I stayed loosely connected through Facebook. I admired her dedication to the students of Baltimore from afar. Commenting on her beautiful daughter and her amazing photos of her family hiking in the woods. But most recently, I noticed her photography project and have been transfixed. I love her vision and her experience with inner city education that fuels it.
Right now education is like a minefield. A war that has polarized our country and pushed the argument far from what the children so desperately need from their schools and teachers.
Whether you love or hate TFA, charter schools, Common Core, testing, homeschoolers, public schools or private schools….I hope that you take a moment to consider supporting one amazingly dedicated and talented teacher’s project. For I believe that the only way education will get better is one visionary person at a time. Callie is certainly a visionary.
If she does not meet her fundraising goal, she will not get any of the donations. So please check out her kickstarter site and consider taking a meaningful step in education reform.
Sure it is a small step in the face of all of the reforms, but every journey is made up of thousands of small steps.