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When a Student Becomes a Teacher: Alicia’s Story

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Alicia on graduation day from University of Texas at Austin

Faculty and staff at Thurgood Marshall Academy continue to rave about Alicia Hargrove (TMA ‘10) and her many accomplishments. She graduated from the University of Texas, where she earned a Bachelor’s degree in History. But it was a teaching position in Mexico that prepared her for a role at TMA. Now that the tables have turned—and Hargrove is the teacher and not the student—she embraces the ability to impact young people’s lives. In fact, she’s been on staff at Thurgood Marshall Academy since 2014, serving as a long-term substitute teacher and Programs Associate.

This school year, Hargrove will lend her teaching skills to the Special Education department as a para-professional, a teacher who works one-on-one with students with special needs. “It will be a learning experience for me,” she says of the new opportunity. “I am looking forward to better understanding this demographic [special education students] and being a resource unit who is able to adapt to their needs.”

While the para-professional role requires Hargrove to provide academic support to 11th and 12th grade special education students, she’s more excited to work one-on-one with them as they plan for college. Hargrove is aware that plans after high school vary from student to student. “TMA prepared me for college because that was a natural next step for me. But I’ve learned that there are other options that can prepare students for success,” she said.

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Alicia (right) joins her mentor and former TMA faculty member, Marielys Garcia, wearing matching ‘I teach…What’s Your Super Power’ t-shirts.

Hargrove believes that teachers are the “missing puzzle piece” who address unmet needs. Therefore, she takes pride in advocating for students who may want to take a year off after high school; students who think it’s best to work to supplement college tuition costs; or students who consider vocational school a better fit. “For students like this, what would plans look like,” she asks. “I want to help develop detailed plans that are an addition to college goals.”

Because of the college plan she created with TMA’s College Counseling Office, Hargrove has conquered her college goals and much more. “I’m happy to have gone to college. I went [to college] far away because I had been in DC all my life,” Hargrove says of her choice to go to college in Austin, TX, more than 1,600 miles from her home in Southeast, DC. “I wanted to explore and experience the world,” she said reminiscing about a study abroad experience in Mexico where she taught English as a foreign language at the Instituto Tecnológico de Querétaro.

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Just a few years ago, Alicia was a student at TMA. Now she is a TMA teacher.

But Hargrove shared that the experiences at TMA bring back the most memories. Her most memorable moment was when she led a class discussion on “Things Fall Apart” by Chinua Achebe. “Teaching at TMA also reminds me how far the school has come.” Today, Thurgood Marshall Academy has a thriving dual-enrollment program where seniors take college courses and earn college credit. When Hargrove was a senior, the school was just piloting a similar program. “TMA has improved the quality of education for students,” said Hargrove as she lists the various clubs, sports, and field trips that are the foundation of school’s curriculum.

Another element that is a big part of TMA’s curriculum and overall mission is preparing students to actively engage in our democratic society. “My involvement in the democratic society? I have to say that I’m still enhancing that as an alum,” she said.

In an interesting turn of events, though, Hargrove went on to admit that, even as a teacher, she can learn from students. “They’re very vocal,” Hargrove says of students. “They inspire me to think about ways to get the message out about things that are important to my community. To hear students talk about systemic issues is empowering. It’s the first step to making a difference,” she ends.