My AmeriCorps service as a Teach For America corps member in Tunica, Mississippi in the late 1990s had a profound impact on me. This was my first professional role after college and it was a foundational learning experience that has shaped my career.
As a high school social studies teacher, my primary focus was on improving the quality of education my students received. I also had the opportunity to work with Habitat for Humanity in my local community. I saw first-hand the intersection of issues like housing availability and quality, food insecurity and educational opportunity. Making these connections helped me realize the need for a comprehensive approach to strengthening state education systems.
I’ve carried this holistic approach from my time as an AmeriCorps member into my role as director of the Iowa Department of Education. Our focus at the Department is on ensuring that every learner in Iowa is safe, healthy, engaged and prepared.
This vision includes ensuring students develop the skills and content knowledge they need to be successful in and beyond high school. It also means creating a safe and welcoming environment in every school, supporting students’ physical and mental health needs, and providing rich and rewarding learning opportunities that make connections between the classroom and the community.
While my AmeriCorps experience concluded nearly twenty years ago, the lessons I learned and the commitment to service I made will last a lifetime.
Ryan Wise, Director, Iowa Department of Education