Today's feature TFA Alum is Jorge Galan! Jorge served as part of the 2013 Houston Corps and taught Spanish to 8th and 7th graders. During his time in the corps, Jorge created the first AP Spanish Language and Culture program at his school, finding resources and mentoring his students into attaining college credit before even entering high school. In addition to the work he did at his school, Jorge was the LGBTQ Affinity Group Leader for the Houston region, where he facilitated workshops focused on LGBTQ topics in education and served as a mentor for over 25 TFA Corp members during their first year of teaching. Jorge attributes his passion for rectifying educational inequity and working with Teach for America to his past.
"I grew up south-east out of Houston in a predominantly Latino and low-income area. My parents always emphasized me that I needed to go to college. I went through the school system and I got placed into the GT track in middle school because of them pressuring the school, and this was where I was taught by my first TFA teacher. She was my 8th-grade science teacher, and she was the best science teacher I’ve had in my life. I also had a TFA teacher in 10th grade; he would come after class and he worked so hard for us. He mentioned Teach for America to me and so when I became a freshman at UT, I looked into it. I was originally set on doing performance as a career, but as I reflected on my peers back home who hadn’t had great teachers like me, who didn’t apply for college because they didn’t know they could, I kept on thinking, why are they behind while I'm ahead? And the answer I came to was because of the amazing teachers I had."
"When I worked with Texas Afterschool Centers on Education in East Austin, I learned that educational inequity was a larger problem than what I originally saw. It wasn't just something that afflicted my old classmates and friends. This was a very systemic thing that affected students purely because of their race and poverty. I felt that I had this duty to give back what was given to me, to give back the education that was given to me. I attended a TFA info session and the recruiter was so mesmerizing; I realized this was something I had to put my heart and soul in and I applied in my senior year and got an offer!"
Jorge describes his time with TFA as difficult and rigorous yet memorable and life-changing.
"I joined the 2013 Houston corps. The summer training was intense, but I met some of the most amazing people I’ve met in my entire life. It was a lot of sleep-deprived days, but I felt good because I knew everything I was doing meant something. I worked at Patrick Henry middle school and I found out that it was part of the lowest quartile of schools in HISD. Almost all of my students lived in poverty and I had over 220 students in 8 different class periods. I was the only Spanish teacher, I had outdated textbooks, and my school said ‘Make it work.’ "
He quickly realized he had an opportunity to really change the course of these kids' lives. He worked rigorously to find the best ways to provide for his kids and get them ready for their next year in high school. Since he was the only Spanish teacher in the school, he also became the department head.
"I was overwhelmed. It was a huge bite to chew. I worked hard to make my program great and talked to my principal about making an AP Spanish language program at this school. I got certified to be an AP teacher and I started making the curriculum. I went off what I got from the internet, made lesson plans, and pulled things together. It was incredibly difficult. I had a lot of support from my colleagues who were in my school, my vice principal came to help me, I had a manager come and evaluate me. In my first year, 27 8th graders got AP credit and something amazing came out of my perseverance."
By the time Jorge left Patrick Henry, 45 students had attained college credit before even entering high school. Jorge raised over $2,800 for his students and provided them with tablets and a Spanish library to help their development. He organized parents nights to educate families about the AP exam and provided them with tools to help their children at home.
"Leaving Patrick Henry was a very, very, very bittersweet experience for me. I spent my summer after my two years teaching a 6th-grade reading class and we went over the book The Boy in Striped Pajamas. It was great to work with a smaller group of students and build a strong culture, but I was worried that my impact was limited. I felt like I wanted to grow professionally and I knew that I wanted to take a larger step towards helping a larger audience or group of people. I wanted to expand my impact. During my time at TFA, I was also the LGBTQ Affinity group leader. I went to a Latino leadership conference, where I got to network with alumni. I realized how much I had benefited from non-profits growing up, and I wanted to help grow the presence of people of color in non-profit. I decided to go into recruitment so I could directly help bring more people towards Teach for America's cause and gain some experience in a more executive role."
Currently, Jorge is the Director of Recruitment for UT Austin, where he's created initiatives and worked to make UT the campus with the highest number of TFA recruits in the nation for the last 2 years. He continues working endlessly while also applying for MBA programs to pursue a more executive role within Teach for America or another non-profit.
Jorge is only one of the thousands of amazing Teach for America teachers who're actively making strides towards bringing equality to the classroom and helping bring opportunities to thousands of students all around America. You can be a part of this story by applying for Teach for America or reaching out to Jorge about his experiences and his story. You can reach out to him at Jorge.Galan@teachforamerica.org!