Why are you here?  How did you get here?  Since you work together, do you live together?

It’s not every Friday that I have the chance to meet with an excited group of first graders with tons of questions about who I am, what I do, and why on earth I would give up my lunch to come and teach them.  Fortunately, for five Fridays in May and June, I had the opportunity to be a first  grade teacher and play a small role in the education experience of students in my neighborhood.

As Blackboard employees, we are committed to getting involved with the education community and giving back, really helping to build a better education experience, around the world and around our neighborhoods. Earlier this year, a group of Blackboard’ers participated in the Greater DC Cares 2011 SERVATHON, the first ever event for the Blackboard Education Corps, a new program that enables every full-time employee to spend a full workday working to improve education in their communities. Check the blog post by Stephanie Weeks and learn about her experience. By stepping out into our local communities, we are broadening our reach and the impact we have in our community.

Inspired and wanting to contribute to the cause I, along with two colleagues – Andrea Meier and Julie Kelleher – decided to volunteer with Junior Achievement.  Junior Achievement (JA) is a five to six week program that places professionals in a classroom, once a week, to teach an hour long lesson on financial literacy and economics.  It is open to grades K-12 and impacts 4 million U.S. students in more than 173,000 classrooms, with the help of 171,000 volunteers.

We started in an elementary school and worked with a first grade class at a school close to our office. Through the program, we were matched with Kelly Fister, a first grade teacher at Ross Elementary in Dupont Circle. JA provided the curriculum and after a brief training, we were ready to go! Julie, Andrea and I met every week to review the week’s lesson and often would come up with creative ways to expand the curriculum.  Each week that passed, we got to know the students better and better, and had a blast coming up with new ways to deliver the content that would be meaningful from the point of view of a 6 year old. Planning for and attending class quickly became the highlight of our week!  I also got a sense for what lesson planning is like when planning multiple lessons a day, five days a week.

We had such a wonderful experience with Kelly and her class that we knew we wanted to volunteer with her again this fall. Recently we sat down to discuss our previous school year and plan for the future. Check out a second blog post with all that we discussed with Kelly, including some short videos!

JA provided us an amazing in-classroom experience. It was fantastic to get in the classroom with the kids for an hour a week and remember what it was like to be a first grader. From working on the curriculum, to chatting and helping the students with the activities, it was fun and challenging and I developed an incredible amount of respect for teachers. Julie, Andrea and I can’t wait to go back again in a couple of weeks. I know it is something we all hope to continue through the years.

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