“It was not that long ago that I was sitting right where you are,” said Adrienne Lombaerde.
A 2012 Liberal Arts graduate, Lombaerde visited Bloomsburg on Monday, Oct. 14 to speak with education majors about her experience with Teach for America, a nonprofit organization that places recent college graduates in teaching positions in low-income areas to eliminate educational inequality throughout the country.
|Lombaerde in her 5th grade classroom at Monroe Elementary School,|
courtesy of Adrienne Lombaerde
It was clear that her opening statement was true as she chatted enthusiastically with students before her presentation, subconsciously reminding everyone in attendance of her youth despite her mature composure.
A political science major from Milford, PA, Lombaerde was never sure she wanted to teach. “I knew that I liked working for youth efforts but I always thought it would be done at a conservation policy level. Then, just through random Google searches and friends, I heard about Teach for America,” said Lombaerde.
After a series of phone and in-person interviews, Lombaerde was one of the 5,800 incoming corps members selected out of almost 50,000 applicants in 2012. Once accepted, she was able to choose either what grade level she would like to teach or her top 10 location preferences for her assignment. She selected a high school teaching assignment but was placed in 2nd grade in Oklahoma City. “I know, why couldn’t I have gotten Hawaii?” she joked.
After persevering through her first year in the program, which Lombaerde says was “literally the most difficult thing I've ever done,” she was moved to 5th grade with 34 students in one classroom. While she wasn't thrilled about her initial assignment, she admitted that “sometimes it’s good to be pushed to that uncomfortable limit and you get to see where you really can be effective.”
Halfway through her presentation, you would have never known Lombaerde never took an education class in college. Rattling off jargon and using her “teacher voice,” she could have been a seasoned professional. Her passion was undeniable as she became emotional talking about her students, the adversities they've overcome and the bonds they have with each other.
Lombaerde acknowledges that her presence in her students’ daily lives may be the only consistency they experience, asking her students frequently “how are you going to make your parents proud today?” It is this sense of responsibility that keeps Lombaerde in the teaching or education system once her TFA duties are fulfilled.
|Lombaerde with her students,|
courtesy of Adrienne Lombaerde
Comparing her current status to her senior year of college, Lombaerde is faced with endless opportunities. When asked if she would rather transfer to a more middle-class district, she confessed to thinking about it. “It’s definitely crossed my mind but it comes down to ‘would I still be effective?’ My students are growing in ways I couldn’t even imagine and when I see a higher-income school district, it’s just so surface level,” said Lombaerde.
Recently offered a job to be an education specialist, Lombaerde can definitely see herself staying in the education world, though it might be more in the policy realm rather than being in a classroom.
Her advice for current Bloomsburg students is simple. “Take advantage of the small class sizes. Take advantage of the relationships you have with professors because that really helps your personal skills. That has really transcended into my classroom with things like building relationships with my kids and greeting them with a handshake,” said Lombaerde.
Though she faces many choices after this academic year, there is no doubt that Lombaerde finds her work rewarding: “I’m actually making a difference. I’m actually changing lives.”