Current KIPP Indy teacher and Teach For America alum, Ronak Shah, discusses why he became a teacher, Teach For America’s impact on the city, and why he came to KIPP Indy.

Ronak Shah came to KIPP Indy after three years of teaching in the local community. He received his degree from Indiana University and is a former Teach For America corps member. He is the 7th grade science teacher at KIPP Indy.

Why did you join Teach For America?

Although I didn’t study education in college, I had always been interested in a pathway to the classroom. I had thought about teaching as a career even in high school, but some friends of mine talked me out of entering the school of education at my university. Instead, I studied Conflict Resolution and Cognitive Science, with a particular focus on our broken justice system, and my interest in teaching hardened as my horror at the school-to-prison pipeline developed. I knew I wanted to be part of a blockade on that pipeline, and teaching in a public school was the most effective way to do it. Teach For America offered a route to the classroom that would allow me to work alongside a supportive community of peers with a similar purpose in pursuing education, and would also allow me to do so in my home town of Indianapolis.

Why Indianapolis?

Indianapolis is a city with a lot of momentum. If a person wants to do good work, this is a great place to get started and to build partnerships. I’m really excited to keep working in this city where I feel like I have the greatest capacity to be effective.

What role does Teach For America play in our city and in education?

Teach For America’s role in the city has no doubt been transformational to Indy’s education system, having brought a lot of dedicated, hardworking, talented people to the city who would not otherwise be here.

What is your favorite thing about teaching?

My favorite thing about teaching is the ‘aha’ moments students have. As a science teacher, the great moments are when students find a seamless interaction between what they’re learning in the classroom and what is happening in the real world. As a teacher, it is my job to try and make every day like that for students.

How did you first hear about KIPP Indy? How did you decide to apply here?

I’ve known about KIPP Indy since I started teaching and had some friends who worked here. I enjoyed teaching at my old school, but over time I didn’t feel myself learning and growing as a teacher. I wanted to be in a national network where there are passionate, experienced teachers that I could learn from. I knew from other teachers who worked here that KIPP Indy serves students well and is committed to developing their teachers. I love that KIPP Indy is embedded in a community where there is a need for me and where teachers can have a big impact.

What did you think of KIPP Indy’s application process? Explain what that was like.

I write off any school that seems to just hand teachers jobs. I appreciated that KIPP Indy’s application process had multiple tiers and looked at candidates’ ability in several areas. KIPP Indy examined everything from my sample teaching, to my alignment with the mission, to my ability to instruct and work with data. By the end of the process, I felt like I really knew what it would be like to work at KIPP Indy and they really understood how successful I would be as an employee here.

What makes a great teacher?

A great teacher has to have more than just compassion and professionalism, more than just content knowledge, more than just mission alignment. I think it is an ability to make any space your own space. A good teacher can go under a tree, walk into a prison cell, or sit in a patient’s room in a hospital and turn that into a magical place, a place where everyone feels differently about their day and that space. A great teacher shows their love for students in a way that changes how students feel about learning.