The Ohio Gadfly is extremely excited to announce an addition to our Columbus office. Jessica Poiner, a former teacher, has joined our team as an education policy analyst. For an introduction, here’s Jessica in her own words:
My name is Jessica Poiner. I’m the middle child in a family of three daughters, born and raised in Akron, Ohio. Most of my growing up took place in the suburb of Stow, where I spent a lot of time (probably too much time, if my three knee surgeries are any indication) playing soccer and reading anything I could get my hands on.
When I was in fourth grade, my teacher explained a fun new class activity that functioned something like a board game. Every student had a game piece, and we earned chances to roll the dice on Fridays based on our behavior and quiz scores. I have no idea what my peers thought of the game, but I do remember thinking that I couldn’t wait to be a teacher so that I could design cool games for my students.
Fast-forward to May of 2011. I’ve just graduated from Baldwin-Wallace University with a degree in English. I’ve loaded my entire life into boxes and suitcases. My parents and I are driving twelve hours south to Memphis, Tennessee because I joined Teach For America. I’m going to be an English teacher in inner-city Memphis at one of the lowest-performing high schools in the state.
The next few years were life-altering. While I didn’t design any games nearly as cool as my fourth grade class board game, I did manage to meet some truly incredible students and educators. When I chose to stay in the classroom after my stint with TFA was over, I had the privilege to teach the younger brothers and sisters of students I taught in my very first year. I may have designed Common Core curriculum, delivered thousands of lessons, and sat through hundreds of professional development sessions, but my kids taught me more than I taught them.
Teaching is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. It’s exhausting, frustrating, and stressful, but also incredibly rewarding. My students are unforgettable. They’re brilliant, and compassionate, and they’re going to change the world. I’ve never doubted that for a second.
But as this last year wound down, I started to feel like I wasn’t doing enough. I wanted to do more. Every day I saw how inefficiencies, wasted dollars, and a lack of resources negatively impacted my students. Every day I was reminded that a vast majority of my students read well below grade level, and that they weren’t the only ones. Every day I felt like my students and my colleagues needed to have a voice in what was happening around them.
Lily Tomlin once said: “I always wondered why somebody doesn’t do something about that. Then I realized I was somebody.” It’s why I joined TFA, and it’s why I’m now a part of the Fordham team. I don’t want to sit and bemoan what’s happening. I want to be a part of it. I want to be a voice for students and teachers, and I want to create change that will make the American education system the best in the world.