Teachers in America Podcast Season 1

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Season one of Teachers in America features incredible stories from real teachers—and we are so honored to share their stories with our listeners. Hear firsthand from the people who are shaping young lives around the country every day.

Each of the teachers we spoke to have such different stories, demonstrating there is no singular experience as a teacher. However, they all have one thing in common—they amazed us with their passion and dedication to teaching!

Listen below to each episode and click on the teacher's name to access a full transcript of the conversation.

The views expressed in these podcast are those of the guests and do not necessarily represent those of HMH.

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Rodney Robinson in Richmond, Virginia

Air date: August 28, 2019
Season 1, Episode 11 (S1E11)

Rodney Robinson is the 2019 National Teacher of the Year and Virginia Teacher of the Year.

Rodney is a teaching veteran with nearly two decades of experience. In 2015, in an effort to better understand the school-to-prison pipeline, Rodney started teaching at Virgie Binford Education Center, a school inside the Richmond Juvenile Detention Center. Now, he uses the knowledge he has gained from his students to develop alternative programs to prevent students from entering the school-to-prison pipeline. Rodney earned a Bachelor of Arts in History from Virginia State University and a Master’s in Educational Administration and Supervision from Virginia Commonwealth University. He has been published three times by Yale University and has received numerous awards for his accomplishments in and out of the classroom. He has worked with Pulitzer Award-winning author James Foreman Jr. on developing curriculum units on race, class, and punishment as a part of the Yale Teacher’s Institute.

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Tracy Childers in Marion, North Carolina

Air date: August 20, 2019

Tracy Childers is a science teacher at Foothills Community School, a STEM magnet school, which is part of McDowell County Schools in North Carolina. After graduating from college, Tracy spent the next 30 years in supervision and management in the textile industry. He decided to pursue teaching to honor the memory of his two daughters, Casey and Courtney, after they passed away in an automobile accident in December 2002. In the 16 years he has been working as an educator, Tracy has been a middle school science and math teacher for 6th, 7th, and 8th grade. His current school, Foothills Community School, is a Project Based Learning (PBL) school with mixed-grade classrooms.

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Monica Fitzgerald in Syracuse, New York

Air date: August 6, 2019

Monica Fitzgerald has taught in the North Syracuse Central School District for 24 years. Prior to becoming a teacher, she worked as a weather specialist in the United States Air Force. She received her bachelor’s in Inclusive Elementary/Special Education from Syracuse University, and master’s in Reading from SUNY Oswego. She has experience working as a classroom teacher for grades K–3, a Reading Recovery Teacher, a Reading Teacher for grades K–7, and a Literacy Coordinator. Currently, she teaches reading to vulnerable 7th graders and is working on her second master’s degree in Instructional Design, Development & Evaluation at Syracuse University. Follow Monica on Twitter @nyweathergirl.

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Garrett Jackson in Saipan, U.S. Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands

Air date: July 23, 2019

Garrett Jackson is a Special Education Teacher at Saipan Southern High School in Saipan, the largest of the Northern Mariana Islands, a U.S. Commonwealth in the Western Pacific. Garrett received a Bachelor of Arts in History from The Citadel in Charleston, South Carolina, where he was a member of the Corps of Cadets. It was during this time that Garrett learned to serve those who are less fortunate, something he has carried with him into his education career. Before moving to Saipan with his wife and son, Garrett taught high school history and government in Lawton, Oklahoma. He recently received his master’s in Autism and Developmental Disabilities from the University of Texas of the Permian Basin. In his spare time, Garrett enjoys playing with his son, traveling, hunting, fishing, and amateur radio.

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Georgette McClain in Blanchester, Ohio

Air date: July 9, 2019

Georgette McClain is a Life Sciences teacher at Blanchester High School in Blanchester, Ohio, where she has taught for twelve years. Georgette holds her bachelor’s degree from Wilmington College in Wilmington, Ohio, where she studied Biology and Secondary Education, and earned her master’s degree in Teacher Leadership from Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio. In 2015, Georgette added a Principal license to her teaching certification. Outside of the classroom Georgette, who is also a voracious reader, enjoys birdwatching, camping, and traveling.

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Alexa Tegtmeier in Boston, Massachusetts

Air date: June 25, 2019

Alexa Tegtmeier is a third-grade teacher at the Curtis Guild Elementary, which is part of Boston Public Schools. Alexa has been teaching for five years and just completed her second year at Curtis Guild [in summer 2019]. While she was an undergraduate student at Northeastern University, Alexa took a class in urban education that inspired her to volunteer with JumpStart through AmeriCorps. Then, with Teach for America, Alexa taught a summer school course in Chicago, Illinois, and spent two years in Miami, Florida. She received her master’s degree from the Johns Hopkins University School of Education before returning to teach in Boston, Massachusetts.

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Donna Gradel in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma

Air date: June 11, 2019

Donna Gradel is the 2019 Oklahoma Teacher of the Year.

Donna teaches environmental science and innovative research at Broken Arrow High School in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, where she is committed to unlocking the potential of her students by giving them opportunities to tackle real-world problems. In addition to the many accomplishments you’ll hear about in the episode, Donna also serves as Broken Arrow High School’s science department chair and is an advocate for STEM curriculum and facilities. In 2015, Donna was one of 10 educators throughout the nation to receive the Henry Ford Innovation Nation Innovative Teacher Award. She was also the recipient of the 2017 Presidential Innovation Award for Environmental Educators, recognizing her innovative approach to environmental education. Donna was one of four finalists—along with finalists Kelly Harper and Danielle Riha, and winner Rodney Robinson—for the National Teacher of the Year for 2019.

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Brittany Mamphey in Cincinnati, Ohio

Air date: May 21, 2019

Brittany Mamphey is a fifth grade reading, language arts, and social studies teacher at Mt. Healthy North Elementary School in the Mt. Healthy City Schools District within Cincinnati, Ohio, where she has taught since 2013. She is a 2012 graduate of Bowling Green State University and completed her master’s degree at Miami University (Oxford) in 2016 in the areas of transformative urban education and curriculum development. Brittany is passionate about social justice and character education. She was a panelist at SXSW EDU 2019 in Austin, Texas, in a session featuring teachers from Teachers in America. In 2019, she completed her second master’s degree at the University of Cincinnati in educational leadership.

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Amanda Rack in San Marcos, California

Air date: May 6, 2019

Amanda Rack is a first grade teacher at Knob Hill Elementary School in San Marcos, California, about 45 miles from the border with Mexico. Amanda is a new mother and returned to her classroom after maternity leave midway through this school year. She gives her all—and more—to her students and to her family, yet struggles with feeling like her best is not good enough.

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Rachel Swartz in Bronx, New York

Air date: May 6, 2019

Rachel Swartz is a sixth grade English language arts teacher at the David A. Stein Riverdale Kingsbridge Academy (MS/HS 141) in Bronx, New York. Rachel has been teaching for seven years and holds her master’s in education. She is an anti-bullying champion who ensures her lesson plans promote kindness and are socially and culturally relevant.


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