Teach For America

Abhinav Mishra is driven to create opportunities for income students at Edcouch-Elsa High School.

While tutoring students in science at a low-income elementary school as an undergrad at Arizona State University, Abhinav Mishra came to an important conclusion; people may be created equally, but opportunities are not. The north Indian native was teaching a lesson about water molecules, specifically, how they are shaped like Mickey Mouse’s head. A second grade student named Felipe loudly exclaimed, “What about the orbitals? I don’t want to color – tell me how electrons are pulled!” It was that moment he realized that his students had brilliance that was simply going untapped.

Driven to create opportunities for income students, Mishra applied to Teach For America and was accepted into the 2015 Rio Grande Valley corps where he was hired to teach high school science at Edcouch-Elsa High School.

“Sitting on my father’s shoulders, I was able to see eye-to-eye with everyone else,” said Mishra. “There’s been a picture going around social media recently where three men are standing, trying to view a baseball game over a fence. The tall guy doesn’t need a box to stand on, whereas the short guy does. Being there for the short guy is why I came to Teach For America, so I could play my part in educational equity. Students need to see that opportunities exist for them.”

One such opportunity came when the National Science Foundation gave Teach For America a $1 million grant to train teachers in computer science. Mishra immediately jumped at the opportunity.

“I heard about a Computer Science initiative from another Teach For America corps member, who was trying to get more schools involved. I called the Teach For America managing director, Jonathan Stevens, and asked if I could “get in” on the action, so to speak,” said Mishra. “He spoke to my principal and our assistant superintendent, and that was it. Next thing I knew, I was on a plane on my way to a computer science training.”

After receiving his training, Mishra started Edcouch’s first computer science elective. Knowing the opportunities computer science generated for his own family members, as several work for companies like Google, he was excited to see those same doors open for his students.

While Mishra noted that many of his students are techy savvy, they do not understand the basics of how computers operate. Therefore in his class, students learn all of the computer science basics, including web page programming languages and robotics. However, Mishra’s students are not just learning computer science, they are excelling.

“For the first time in Edcouch-Elsa’s history, Edcouch-Elsa High School took first in computer science in University Interscholastic League at the district level,” said Mishra. “Plans are also in the works to introduce the first Advanced Placement classes for Computer Science. How awesome is that!?”Mishra is incredibly proud of all of his students and their hard work, even on days when his work is challenging.

“I walked into my classroom, exhausted after a long day. There was this little card that said “Thank you,” and a heartfelt, sweet message inside of it. One also thanked me for helping them get into a Yale summer program. Moments like these are what offer me hope and inspiration. Children often don’t realize how much they inspire us, not just the other way around. “

Magic Valley has been a supporter of the Teach For America program since 2003. During that time, they have sponsored numerous local educators who have expanded opportunities for students in our region’s most high-need schools.  Past teachers they have sponsored include teachers of the year, teachers who brought new advanced placement courses to a school, and educators who have gone on to become administrators and impact thousands of children in their career.  Additionally, Teach For America members help promote the annual Magic Valley Electric Coop scholarship program and encourage students to take advantage of this educational opportunity.

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