by Kari Croop
Looking back on his first year of teaching math through the Teach for America program at the Alonzo A. Crim Open Campus High School in Atlanta, Adam Kho admits that, for him, the experience has been as much about learning as it has been teaching.
“I knew it was going to be difficult, but I didn’t realize how difficult it would actually be,” says the Decatur native, who earned his bachelor’s degree in biological and chemical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2008 and started his TFA training the day after graduation. “My first three months of teaching were overwhelming. There were times when I came home exhausted, passed out and just went to bed. There were times when I wanted to quit.”
It took perseverance, but Kho – a top-of-his-class graduate of Lakeside High School, where advanced-placement classes and extracurriculars are the norm – eventually found his bearings at Crim, a nontraditional institution for at-risk students. Part of that was learning that, to succeed, most of his students have to overcome challenges he never even fathomed growing up.
“It was expected that I do my homework, it was expected that I catch on,” he says. “Here, I can’t expect my students to always do their homework. A lot of them have children. They’re working jobs at night and coming to school in the day, and they just can’t manage it all.”
Well into his second year, however, Kho is seeing positive results – and he truly feels he is making a difference.
“I’m establishing some great relationships and, hopefully, setting a good example as a positive male role model in their lives,” says Kho, who’s working toward his master’s degree in teaching. “All students can learn and want to succeed; you just have to find a way to reach them.”
This story was originally published in the Fall 2010 issue of the College of Education's Milestones magazine.