Teach for America
Ross Heyman '09 Economics & Business Majors
Living in Tulsa
CES: How did early experiences influence your career development? (part-time jobs on and off campus, internships, volunteer activities, campus clubs and involvements, etc.)
RH: Having the opportunity to work with ASUPS helped me realize that I enjoy working in teams and having more than one project going at any given time.
Currently I teach elementary school with Teach For America. All of my early experiences on campus working with different groups of students, staff, and alumni prepared me for a variety of challenges I now face as a teacher in a low income school. My job is about adapting quickly and readjusting course.
As an involved student at Puget Sound, I had the opportunity to improve my communication skills through different responsibilities. Regardless of what career field I end up in, my experiences at Puget Sound taught me that I can work in a variety of fields throughout my professional life.
CES: What do you wish you had done or known during college that might have been beneficial to your career development?
RH: I wish I had taken better advantage of the time outside of class and used the alumni network.
Like most students, I spent most of my time when not in class socializing, without much regret. Though, looking back, I now understand the importance and value of people and relationships. I’ve met so many amazing professionals since starting Teach For America in Tulsa. I’ve been most interested in hearing peoples’ stories about how they ended up in their line of work. It would’ve been helpful to have spoken with more faculty and alumni about life after undergrad.
CES: You now live in Tulsa, OK, which I imagine is slightly different from living in Tacoma, WA. What has been your favorite part of this change, and what do you miss most about Tacoma?
RH: Tulsa is radically different from Tacoma in almost every way: geographically, politically, culturally, etc.
My favorite part of Tulsa is the friendliness. Coming to Puget Sound from Chicago, I thought people in the Northwest were extraordinarily friendly. Tulsa has a similar feel, but it is also greatly influenced by the values of Southern hospitality. I’ve been invited to dinner by Tulsans I hadn’t even met previously. Having such a friendly community made for an easy transition to life in Tulsa.
In terms of Tacoma, I miss the people most, followed by the mountains and fresh air.
Though I don’t see myself settling down in Tulsa, the experience has greatly changed my perspective on living in new parts of the country. Anyone that has the opportunity to live somewhere different from what they know can benefit greatly, whether it is abroad or within the U.S.
CES: How did you make the decision to pursue your current path? Were there pivotal moments?
RH: I decided to pursue the opportunity with Teach For America after being recruited on campus. I had coffee with the recruiter a year before applying and thought it was an interesting program, but didn’t think seriously about applying. As time passed in the fall of 2009 I interviewed with some businesses and thought more about what I really wanted to do right after school. I studied business and economics and knew that I was not willing to start a long career in business immediately. I decided that Teach For America was the most challenging and rewarding experience I could ask for upon graduating.
The only truly pivotal moment was when I received an offer from Teach For America to work in Tulsa, Oklahoma for two years. That is when reality set in and I asked myself, “Am I really willing to live in Oklahoma for two years to do this program?” Fortunately, I made the right decision and have not regretted the move, at least since the hot summer ended!
CES: What suggestions do you have for how to stand out in a pool of job applicants?
RH: You can stand out by differentiating yourself from others. Since it is probably obvious that neon resume paper doesn’t help you stand out in a beneficial way, you have to think more creatively. A friend once told me to put one very unique experience or piece of information on your resume. Here are a few examples I’ve seen: Junior High Investor of the Year for Washington State; Led outdoor youth backpacking programs through the Colorado Rockies; Fished commercially in Alaska for ten summers. People that read resumes want to see something that stands out. Show that you are a dynamic, competitive applicant by proving you’re human before an interview. Show your interests or passions on a resume.
A few other strategies I’ve heard of:
- Go to a busy train station dressed professionally and hand out resumes to anyone that will take them.
- Use online networking websites. People have been hired from twitter “tweets”, LinkedIn, and creating their own website with their resume online. (But be cautious when posting your resume online.)
- Consider what types of job you want, then consider what you have done that proves you would be the best, then find a way to showcase your evidence.
Remember, there is usually little to no downside to taking the risk of being creative.
CES: Do you have any tips for students considering a career in education?
RH: Education is a very interesting profession because there are so many careers within the field. For anyone that wants to be a teacher, make sure you spend plenty of time in a classroom, working with students, and taking in how student’s best receive information. Whether you’re getting a Masters degree or a five-week training course, most of what you need to learn about teaching only happens once you have your own class. I would be happy to further discuss my thoughts on teaching as a profession with anyone that is interested.
CES: Do you have any suggestions for students interested in applying for Teach for America? (Housing suggestions, unanticipated challenges, obstacles you had to overcome during the transition, etc.)
RH: Teach For America is a great organization. There are about 7000 current Teach For America Corps Members across the country. Every Corps Member’s experiences are different. From my experience, my advice would simply be to remain flexible. Remember that if you’re applying for Teach For America, you’re committing to two years of service.
In terms of the application process, make sure you demonstrate that you’re a proven leader, you don’t quit things, and you can adapt as situations present themselves. I would love to help answer any questions regarding Teach For America!