Charles “Charlie” Harcourt ambitiously started his job search early when he decided to apply for Teach for America—a competitive program that recruits individuals with strong leadership potential, to teach in academically low-performing communities. In 2013, Teach for America attracted over 45,000 applicants and accepted only at 14% of those applicants. Teach for America fortunately recognized Charlie’s potential and will be starting his second year in the Mississippi Delta in August 2013.
As a 2012 History with Secondary Education Certification major and an Environmental Education minor, Charlie says that his skills in organization, lesson planning, and adaptability were crucial in him attaining this position. Adaptability has undoubtedly been the most important for him as he reflects that, “It has been difficult to transition from a Vermont mindset to a place that still uses corporal punishment as a (legal) norm within the school. When bell schedules seem random, lockdowns are common, and the State Department is constantly auditing the school, all I have been able to do is try to improve my own classroom and adapt to the changes as they come.”
Through these challenges however, he has managed to find his passion of, “expanding the world view” of his students and, “building skills that will make them great citizens of this nation and of the world.” In his first year, he has already set high expectations for his students by building a relationship with Phillips Exeter Academy’s elite summer program and encouraging his students to apply. “This year Megan Lumnah ‘12 and I have worked to send 6 students from the Mississippi Delta to the elite summer program at Phillips.” He hopes to enroll even more students next year as well as expand his outreach to similar programs across the country.
Charlie advises that current GMC students should keep busy, stay focused, attend every class, build close relationships with professors, and get involved with Poultney’s many offerings: the Historical Society, Poultney High School, Rotary, Stone Valley Co-Op, Earth Fair, Maplefest, etc. He also offers this valuable advice: “Learn to sell yourself a little bit—it is okay, don’t be too humble so that you short change your ability in an interview or cover letter. Ask yourself “why do they need me?” and then write a cover letter (without being cocky) on that premise.”