In recent years, many Great Hearts graduates have started to return to the network to teach. In a new series of interviews, Betsy K. Brown asks these young educators to reflect on their experiences in the classroom and what brought them back.
Betsy Brown: What is your subject, and what inspired you to teach it?
Madison Cordova: This year, I am teaching sixth grade Literature and Composition. I find that this class is critical, both in its own right and as a foundation for the work that students will do throughout the rest of their time at Great Hearts. My students find great joy in the tales of Shane and Anne, find themselves in the literature, sometimes for the first time. They experience the joy of diagramming difficult sentences and seeing the overlap between subjects. Lit/Comp is good and beautiful all on its own. However, in Lit/Comp students also learn the skills and habits that they need to sustain the rigorous curriculum they experience. There is another, though not inferior, kind of joy that comes from their exercise of good habits, which is part of why I am overjoyed to teach this grade and subject every day.
What inspired you to come back to Great Hearts after college?
As I went through my education program in college, I found that there was something missing to the “education” that I was supposed to be provided according to my program. I also had a teacher insist that my units I was creating were setting the bar “too high” for my hypothetical classroom. I was shocked because it was nothing that I hadn’t seen Great Heart students do before. I realized that I wanted to be a part of a higher quality of education, one that went beyond basic skills and standards.
What is something you experienced as a Great Hearts student that you now strive to incorporate as a teacher?
During my time as a student, I experienced teachers who cared about me as a human being in addition to the academic perspective. I had teachers attend extracurricular events, write me recommendation letters for different programs, and review lessons with me more than what would be expected. As a result, I push myself to analyze how I am intentionally forming the whole person when I see students in my classroom, rather than pushing for content mastery.
What has changed about Great Hearts in your experience over the years? What has stayed the same?
One of the things that I think has stayed the same is the desire of the teachers to provide a rigorous, high-quality classical education. The individuals that I work with and for continue to pursue the mission of Great Hearts unrelentingly. One of the things that is different, though not better or worse, is that the school is serving a different community. There is a much greater diversity of individuals, both students and as teachers, who are continuously pursuing truth with each other’s help. However, I think Great Hearts has, out of necessity, changed to provide better support to families. The change in community brings about new challenges, as a teacher, to help engage parents in their students’ education, to educate parents in what “education” can look like, how to best support their child through what is a difficult process, and to show them that this classical education is also for them, though they are not in our school buildings every day.