Eva Kurzejeski
Garfield Elementary School
Sixth Grade Math

What factors influenced your decision to become a teacher? Identify what you consider to be your greatest contributions to and accomplishments in education. 
My teen years were riddled with poor decisions and the consequences of my actions. I seemed to be headed down a dark path with no direction. That is until I ended up working community-service hours tutoring at a local after school organization, Centro Latino. It was there that I found a purpose in life and a passion for education. I finally found something at which I was good… teaching. Building relationships was easy for me, and I lived for lightbulb moments. I knew without a doubt I was going to be a teacher, and I was going to serve an underserved population.

“No significant learning can take place without significant relationships.” This quote speaks to my greatest accomplishment as a teacher. Research shows that strong teacher-student relationships are associated with both short- and long-term improvements. Improvements can be seen in essential measurements: higher student academic engagement, attendance, grades, fewer disruptive behaviors and suspensions, and lower school dropout rates. The life-long relationships I have built with my students over the past six years will continue to serve as my greatest accomplishment. Without those relationships, I wouldn’t be able to bask in the splendor of teaching fifth graders to read for the first time or teaching sixth graders how to multiply and divide.

Describe a project or initiative that you have led or been involved with that contributed to increasing equity in education and opportunity for students in your school. What was your role in this project and what was the impact? 
In 2016 Garfield began piloting a trauma-sensitive school initiative. I was fortunate to be a part of this journey. It is estimated that a large majority of our students come from trauma backgrounds. Participating in this initiative allowed me not only to understand my student’s trauma and the effects it has on their learning and development, but it also allowed me to understand my own trauma and how it affected my relationships with my students and my teaching practices. Garfield is no longer participating in the grant portion of the trauma-sensitive schools’ program. However, I am still able to use the practices I learned to be a better educator for children with trauma as well as create an equitable learning environment for all of my students.