Mackenna Krohn, a 22-year-old Puyallup native selected for the 2016 Teach for America Corps, never thought she’d follow the traditional education route and become a teacher in Texas.
Instead, the 2012 Puyallup High School graduate’s academic career plan had been to attend law school after graduating from the University of Portland with degrees in political science and Spanish.
“I always wanted to go to law school,” said Krohn. “That was my plan.”
Then Krohn took her LSATs in the fall of 2015, and her results weren’t what she expected.
“I still applied to all the schools I was planning on and I thought maybe I should have alternative options,” she said.
With recommendations from friends at the University of Portland, a Catholic, service-oriented school, Krohn found an opportunity in a program called Teach for America. Teach for America, a nonprofit organization that works to expand education opportunities for children in communities facing poverty, has a team of 50,000 teachers working across the country.
“I’d known people who had done Teach for America,” Krohn said. “They want people to understand education and to advocate for it. That’s what really drove me to pick them.”
Krohn’s long-term plan is still to study law and become a criminal prosecutor working with youth victims, but she thinks the two-year teaching commitment with Teach for America will better prepare her for achieving her goals.
After sending in an application and completing rounds of interviews, Krohn was selected and offered a choice to teach in one of Teach for America’s six regions in the United States.
With Teach for America I was given the option to choose where I want to be placed. (Rio Grande Valley) is a very cool place. Education is very important and they’re making a lot of changes. I can learn about the population that I want to serve.
Krohn chose Rio Grande Valley, Texas.
“I really wanted a more rural location, just because I don’t think I can really relate to (the city),” Krohn said. “I didn’t want to go in and pretend to be something that I’m not. I wanted to be able to really get involved in the community. Rio Grande Valley ideally fit all of those things.”
In July, Krohn moved down to Dallas for training. Southwest Early College High School, the school in Rio Grande Valley where Krohn teaches, lies right along the border of Mexico in the community of Las Milpas.
“A lot of kids have grown up together in impoverished homes,” Krohn said. “Some kids have a variety of issues going on. This valley, in general in Texas, is one of the poorest parts of the entire country.”
Many students that Krohn works with are bilingual, putting Krohn’s Spanish degree to the test. Working with young students feeds into her future aspirations.
“I want to work with youth populations and be able to understand what makes them tick, what makes them commit crimes, what guides them and how I can do my best as a prosecutor,” Krohn said.
In Texas, ninth- and tenth-graders have to pass the State of Texas Assessment of Academic Readiness, or STAAR. Krohn teaches students that did not pass their STARR exams their ninth grade year.
“It’s a struggle,” Krohn said. “I have to be on my ‘A’ game because these guys need a lot of structure.”
Sometimes, Krohn’s work days stretch 12 hours long, but she considers it all worth it to help her students succeed in the future — just as she plans to do.
Krohn was accepted into the University of Notre Dame and has already committed to start there in the fall of 2019, after her two-year commitment with Teach for America ends.
Krohn is glad to have taken the two years to gain life experience and to forge her own career path. In the future, she considers moving back to Puyallup, where her parents and brother still live.
“I think being 22 years old (going into law school), I would have lacked a lot of applicable life skills,” said Krohn. “With Teach for America I was given the option to choose where I want to be placed. (Rio Grande Valley) is a very cool place. Education is very important and they’re making a lot of changes. I can learn about the population that I want to serve.”