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Juan Bencosme (New York '17) shares his story at the 2017 Teach For America - New York Annual Benefit Dinner

Back to School With 2017 Corps Member, Juan Bencosme

Juan Bencosme (New York '17) talks about the power of perseverance during a challenging institute and why being a teacher is a live-giving experience.

By

Monday, September 4, 2017

We first met Juan at our 2017 Annual Benefit Dinner where he shared his commitment to inspiring students to serve in their communities. Now he has  completed Institute and is preparing for his first day of the new school year. We checked in with him to see how he's feeling after a summer of teaching New York City students and to see if what he shared at the dinner still holds true today.

What's your name and where are you from?

My name is Juan Bencosme and I'm from Ridgewood/Bushwick, NY

What were you doing before you joined teach for America?

For 10 years I was part of a community youth outreach program in my parish. I volunteered as a youth leader for five years from 2007-2012. I volunteered as the coordinator for three years from 2013-2015. In 2015 we expanded the program to two more parishes, and I was officially on staff at each parish for two years. 

Why did you join Teach For America?

I joined Teach For America because I believe every student deserves to have the best educational resources and opportunities at their disposal. Within my own household, I see the difference education makes, not just in terms of profitability, but in being able to see the world, and our place in it. Education is the key to self-actualization, and self-actualization frees us to give fully of our gifts to the world. 

How would you describe your Institute experience?

This summer was the most challenging work experience of my life. It was also the most rewarding and life-giving. I say that not because sounds good, but it is simply the truth. I had a difficult class. They almost never cooperated and I felt completely unequipped to teach them. Yet, I woke up every day excited to give it my best, take the wins, take the losses, and learn from both. Although my students challenged me every day, I knew they needed me to show up as much as possible and work hard to be great for them. They taught me a lot and every morning I woke up knowing that I had a place to give myself. 
 
What does "teaching as leadership" mean to you?

Teaching as leadership takes into account that my job is more than having students pass tests. It takes into account that in the classroom students learn how to see themselves, see each other, and see their place in the world. Teaching is about preparing students to live a full life, a life where they themselves become leaders.

Juan Bencosme shares his mission with the audience at our 2017 Annual Benefit Dinner
My role is not to correct behavior solely for the sake of cooperation. We correct and redirect in the service of learning.
Juan Bencosme (New York '17)

At the Teach For America – New York annual benefit dinner, you said “It is my mission to show my students that they can break free from their limits.” How do you feel about that after having gone through institute?
It's a double edged sword. My students will learn to keep pushing themselves. To use their skills fully and keep learning. But I came face to face with my own limits. I had to learn to keep pushing. I had to use and acquire new skills and new mindsets. It is a partnership; I teach them and in many ways, they teach me. 

What’s the most important lesson you learned this summer?
Everyday is new. Every moment is new. There is a balance between accounting for all the things that have been happening and giving students a new opportunity to show up as often as possible. My role is not to correct behavior solely for the sake of cooperation. We correct and redirect in the service of learning. No matter how "bad" or "good" a given day is, tomorrow is a brand new day. 

What’s the best teaching tip you’ve heard so far
Share yourself with your students. When they know you they trust you, and you work together towards common goals. 
 
Who or what inspires your work?
My fiancé. My family. My students. Kendrick Lamar. God.