My name is Taylor Curley. I am a Special Education teacher in the City of Boston. I currently teach 3- and 4-year-old students with special needs at the Mattahunt Elementary School in Mattapan. The Mattahunt is a low income, low performing school facing many challenges. The students are often suffering through poverty, hunger, and trauma. My students struggle physically and emotionally as well as academically. They suffer from a range of disabilities, from Autism to Down’s Syndrome and more.
My job isn’t your typical 9-5. I’m at the school early and I stay late, but I can’t help thinking and worrying about my students at all hours of the day. It’s never-ending. It’s hard to let them go at the end of the day knowing some of the situations they’re dealing with at home. That’s my biggest challenge, feeling that I can’t do more for them when they walk out that door. That’s why I do whatever I can to provide a safe and nurturing learning environment for my kids. Sometimes that plays out in surprising ways.
The school had a pool party last year to mark the end of term. A note was sent home to parents asking that they send their child to school with a bathing suit. My kids had worked hard throughout the year to overcome their unique challenges, they all deserved to celebrate. One of my students arrived without a bathing suit that day, so I went to the store on my lunch break to buy him one. To me, that felt like something I had to do as a teacher. Yes, my job is to teach them to read, write, do math and perform other traditional academic skills, but I know that they won’t learn properly when their basic needs are not being met. That means I have to be creative and intuitive and provide extra support when I can.
Each day that my students arrive to school, happy to see me and eager to learn, I am reassured. I can see the academic and social/emotional progress they make everyday, so I know that I am doing something right. I hope that Boston's educational system continues to improve and that we learn how to better educate all different types of learners from all different walks of life. In the meantime, when a student steps off the bus with a big smile on his face and says, "Ms. Curley, did you miss me?", I know that I am in the right place, no matter the challenges that lie ahead of me that day.
What advice would you give to the aspiring leaders and changemakers among Boston's millennial population?
I would tell aspiring leaders and changemakers to do something they are passionate about. It shouldn't be about the money or the benefits. It should be about doing something that you enjoy and love every single day.
SPARK IMPACT AWARDS
SPARK Boston is Mayor Walsh’s millennial engagement initiative. Our mission is to engage the next generation of civic leaders and social entrepreneurs in the work of city government. From dedicated public servants to community builders and connectors, millennials are some of Boston’s most impactful citizens. Each year, the City of Boston celebrates the millennial contribution to our city with the Annual SPARK Impact Awards.