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I read an article called “Why Teachers of Color Quit” that detailed various reasons why corps members of color leave the classroom. One of the concerns the author addressed was her family’s perception of the work that she does. Is teaching long-term something that will make her family proud? This is a question I often think about. Although I am better off economically than my mother was at my age, I still wonder if I am making good on the sacrifices she made for my future.

As my time as a corps member comes to a close, should I continue down this path or hang up the proverbial white hat?

I am sure this question crossed the mind of all second-year corps members. The question can feel even more daunting when you are someone who feels personally connected to the community that you serve. Growing up as a black child in Englewood on the South Side of Chicago, I saw firsthand the ravages of the achievement gap. It’s important to me to use the privileges I have garnered through my education to give back to my community. That’s why I became a teacher.

Over the last two years, I have read a lot about the challenges that come with teaching. However, I have not heard as much from the people who have decided to stay in the classroom, despite those challenges.

I spoke with several TFA alumni who have dedicated three or more years to the classroom to understand why they decided to continue teaching after their corps commitment. We talked about their dedication to their kids, growing to feel a part of the communities that they serve, and how their families feel about their work.

Kiesha Moodie, a 2008 Houston corps member, discussed being able to see the benefits of laying the foundation of community partnerships during her first two years. By Year Three, she was able to “see the fruits of the relationships” she planted. One such fruit Ms. Moodie cherishes was a student group she facilitated called Blossom, which hosted a black history living museum for the students at her school. She recalls the success of Room 108, where she was not only able to garner some of the highest results for fifth graders in over five years in her school, but also pushed her kids to engage in critical conversations with the themes of her classroom. She sought to empower her students to “bend, fold, question, and rewrite” the literature they encountered. Many of her students never felt empowered to engage with their education in that way. After her three years in the classroom, Ms. Moodie returned to her South Florida roots to work on Teach For America staff in Miami. Although she misses the classroom, she is grateful she gets to reach even more kids through the corps members she helps to develop every day. She said she has no doubt she will “be in education for the rest of [her] life.”

Kiesha’s story parallels that of her fellow 2008 Houston corps member, AiMee Morant. They both came from a line of educators, and they value the importance of teachers as integral parts of the community. Ms. Morant describes her family as “community people” who “see the value in building up kids.” Given her family’s history, she “never knew not to serve” and sees teaching “not just as a career…but who [she is].” Ms. Morant has been in the classroom since 2008, and she embraces “touching a life” every time she walks in the classroom.  Ms. Morant’s sees her students’ success as the reward for the work she puts in every day.

Family also drives George Hart, a 2011 Miami-Dade corps member.  He follows in the tradition of his grandparents, who were educators in Cuba. He was the first person in his family to graduate from college and wants to make that experience a reality for the students he serves. Mr. Hart is currently organizing a trip for over 20 students to tour his undergraduate campus, Boston College, the first trip of its kind in the history of his school. George says “its hard for him to imagine walking away” from this work because he sees the possibilities in creating a movement of educators who believe in social justice. In addition to teaching, Mr. Hart creates a positive learning environment across his school as the Dean of Culture. Mr. Hart places a huge priority on building relationships with his students. His students come to him in moments of crisis because “they know how much Mr. Hart cares about them.”

Although my mother did not spend anytime leading a classroom, she is, of course, my most important educator. For her, my success should be measured by my investment in the work that I do. Sometimes, being happy going to work every day is more important than the amount that you bring home. I continue to ponder whether or not I will be in the classroom for the rest of my career, but after talking to Kiesha, AiMee, and George, I see the value in giving the classroom at least another year. Although teaching may not be the most financially lucrative career, the relationships that I build with my students and the community help to sustain me.

This post originally appeared on Pass The Chalk.