Her motto was ‘There’s no crying in teaching’ … until she actually became a teacher

Allissa Impink started her teaching career determined to make a difference.

As a Teach For America corps member, she headed into her first job as a special education teacher in 2015. A former social worker, Impink had a strong background helping children and witnessing tough situations. She was prepared, she thought.

But becoming a teacher and facing the realities of leading a classroom challenged her in ways she couldn’t have imagined.

Impink, now a teacher at Cold Spring School in Indianapolis Public Schools, was one of eight educators and students who participated in a recent story slam sponsored by Chalkbeat, Teachers Lounge Indy, WFYI Public Media and the Indianapolis Public Library.

Here’s an excerpt of her story about how she made her transition into teaching and what she faced in her first year. It has been lightly edited for length and clarity:

In 1992, in my opinion, one of the greatest movies of all time came out — “A League of Their Own,” starring Tom Hanks and Geena Davis. When I quickly set the scene for you, Tom Hanks, who stars as Jimmy Dugan, is yelling at one of his female players, who made multiple, multiple mistakes throughout the game. He yells to her, “Are you crying? Are you crying? There’s no crying in baseball!”

Well, there’s no crying in teaching.

I was an English major in college, and it was my goal to become an English teacher upon graduation. However, due to college athletics, I was unable to realize that goal of obtaining my teaching license through the School of Education route. So in 2006 upon graduation from college, I interviewed for Teach For America. I was onto my third and final interview round, but apparently crying during an interview is not the best way to show empathy.

“Dear Allissa, we regret to inform you that you have not been selected to join the 2006 corps.”

So change of plans — social work. I was a social worker at the Department of Child Services for eight years. The typical tenure of DCS social workers directly out of college was six months. I’ve done my best to fight off the secondary trauma, and sleepless nights, and the politics of all of it.

Are we really doing what’s best for children, I would ask myself. Are we really keeping kids safe? Does the administration know what we really are going through? Have they ever performed a home visit? Do you know what it’s like to be on call and to remove a child from their home at 3 a.m. in the morning? I needed a new career.

I needed a transition to a career where I was still focused on children, and families, and the community. I still wanted to work hard and make a difference. I wanted to give back and I still wanted to teach. So I interviewed for Teach for America for the second time in 2014. Social work had hardened me. I was no longer a crier. I’m an experienced adult now. I’ve been a supervisor, I’ve testified in court, I’ve led trainings, I’ve supported families, I’ve bonded with children — Hell, I’ve kept children safe.

“Dear Allissa, Congratulations! We are pleased to inform you that you’ve been accepted to the 2015 corps.”

I cried often my first year of teaching, but what I’m not is a quitter.

Check out the video below to hear the rest of Impink’s story.

You can find more stories from educators, students, and parents here.