What's Your Education Story?

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

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy
Allissa Impink at the Teacher Story Slam, April 19, 2018.

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.


What's Your Education Story?

Putting money in the bank for college: One Indianapolis teacher’s call to action

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy
Katie Johnson at the Teacher Story Slam, April 19, 2018.

Indianapolis educator Katie Johnson has made it her mission to tell students not only that they can go to college, but that they can afford it, too.

Some of her families at KIPP Indy College Prep Middle School, she said, don’t even realize the opportunities they have to enroll in programs like 21st Century Scholars, a high school program that helps students from low-income backgrounds earn a full ride to a state university or college.

Johnson, a college counselor, was one of eight educators and students who participated in last week’s 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 and her colleagues are working to encourage students to prepare for college — academically and financially. It has been lightly edited for length and clarity:

“This is a call to action. So part of my role at my school is to, one, help our 8th graders find their best fit school.

Another piece is to help our kiddos learn about college. If you walk through our hallways, you will see pennants, you will see flags — each homeroom is named after a university. Every single grade level, K-8, goes on a college field lesson every year. So college is everywhere.

When I started working at this school, I was a gym teacher and I loved it. I was an athlete all in college, and it was just a great opportunity to teach all the kiddos what I’d been learning about taking care of my body and working out.

About three years ago, four years ago, I started the position I have now. And one thing I’ve noticed — has anyone heard of 21st Century Scholars? — is only 30 percent of my eighth graders were leaving my school signed up. And I’m a 21st Century Scholar, and so my mission was to make sure that our babies were signed up.

So since I’ve been in this role, we’ve been signing up 90 percent of our eighth-graders to leave our school signed up for that program.

And so I thought about, OK, If I can get 90 percent of our families signed up for 21st Century Scholars, how else can I get our kiddos and families thinking about the cost of college early?”

Check out the video below to hear the rest of Johnson’s story, where she goes on to explain the new initiative her school is taking on and how it’s already changing how her students think about life after high school.

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


What's Your Education Story?

We can’t wait for you to hear these Indianapolis teachers’ stories — join us April 19

PHOTO: Ronak Shah

Indianapolis teachers have more stories from their classrooms to share this spring.

Over the past year, Chalkbeat has brought readers personal stories from the teachers, students, and leaders of Indianapolis through our occasional series, What’s Your Education Story? Some of our favorites were told live during teacher story slams hosted by Teachers Lounge Indy.

The stories dealt with how a teacher grappled with coming out to his students, a class that organized to save historic trees in their community, and the unexpected lesson of a mouse in the classroom.

Next month, Chalkbeat is partnering with Teachers Lounge Indy, WFYI Public Media, and the Indianapolis Public Library to host a story slam. The event, 5:30 p.m. Thursday, April 19, will showcase tales from across Circle City classrooms. It is free and open to the public — please RSVP here.

Event details:

5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Thursday, April 19, 2018
Central Library, Clowes Auditorium
40 E. St. Clair St., Indianapolis, IN
Get tickets here and find more on Facebook