A 2011 graduate of Earlham’s M.A.T. program, Tiauna Washington ’04 is a first-generation college graduate and now she’s encouraging other first-generation students to do the same as part of a rewarding career.
Washington remembers being told that she wouldn’t go to college because of money and family situations. Despite that, she graduated from Earlham with a degree in biology before going on to get her MBA in London, England and then her teaching license through Earlham’s M.A.T. program.
After graduating from the M.A.T., Washington taught at a local charter school and then a public school an hour away from Richmond before landing in the position that matched her passion and interests.
That position was in the Early College Preparatory Academy that is part of Richmond Community Schools, which is meant for first generation students and those at risk of not graduating high school who also have high potential of going to college. It’s perfect, she says, “Because I’m a first generation myself.”
Teaching 7th grade world history can be daunting because it’s a testing year for students. Every student has to pass ISTEP, a statewide subject test, in order to move forward. This year, 17 of Washington’s students received pass+ on the test, success that is above average statewide.
Even though passing tests is important to moving forward, Washington says, “I live for that moment when the light bulb goes off. It shows that I’m doing something right.”
Washington makes her classroom an open place, saying, “If students are not getting the concept that I am explaining, then I ask one of their peers to explain it to them as they understand it better from their peers. It might take one, three, 10 people before they get it but I don't allow them to give up. We will find someone who will help you understand a concept - a peer or another teacher.”
Part of her philosophy includes admitting that she also makes mistakes. M.A.T. students call themselves lifelong learners and Washington feels that’s true. “The M.A.T. does a very good job of giving you the confidence you need to be a good teacher.” And Washington has become just that.