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Katherine McClafferty is a second-grade teacher at Graham Road Elementary School in Virginia, which is 90 percent students of color. She is in her sixth year of teaching.

KatherineMcClafferty_HeadshotFor many of its economically disadvantaged students, Graham Road Elementary School is the symbol of consistency and safety. It’s where they come to learn about working hard, celebrating progress, and achieving individual goals. Graham Road is where I began my career, and where I’ve chosen to remain for the past six years.

The opportunities for professional growth are abundant at Graham Road. My administrators capably distribute leadership and provide the structures for collaboration, so that while I may be the only adult in my classroom, I never feel as though I’m teaching alone. My supportive colleagues and trusting administrators inspire me to take risks, to reflect, and to improve my practice. For example, during my second year of teaching, my teammates and I decided that we needed more professional development in guided reading. After talking to our principal, he purchased a resource book for my colleagues and I to analyze during weekly meetings, and we relied on the assistant principal and resource teacher to support our discussions and develop interactive ways to practice new strategies together.

As a member of the Graham Road community, I contribute to the stability of lives that are, at times, fraught with uncertainty and chaos. Students know my name before I know theirs. They know that I am the one who taught their big sister, or the one that said “Good morning!” every time they passed my door, or the one who always nagged them to walk in the hallway. No matter what their home life is like, they expect me and my colleagues to be there for them — and we don’t disappoint.

More resources from Ed Trust

Building and Sustaining Talent is a report that describes the urgency of making high-poverty, low-performing schools satisfying, attractive places to work, and how some schools and districts are doing it.

This post is a part of an ongoing series, called “Why I Teach Where I Teach,” which asks educators in high-need schools to share what has attracted (and kept) them in the challenging environments they’re in. They share important stories and experiences that should remind us all of the power of strong school leadership, a network of supportive colleagues, and the genuine opportunity to have a say in schoolwide decisions. Listen up! They’re teaching us.

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