Relay Ambassador: Ayjah Byrd
Ambassadors are Relay students and alumni who have chosen to share their stories as teachers and graduate students so that others can learn what it takes and get inspired to join teaching. You can find Ayjah on Instagram @learnwithbyrd and on Facebook under Ayjah Byrd. Follow her there for more insight on teaching!
5 Questions for Ayjah Byrd
1. Where and what do you teach?
I teach 4th grade math and serve as a resident advisor at KIPP Woodson Park Academy in Atlanta, Georgia. This is my third year as a full time teacher, as I graduated from the Relay Master of Arts in Teaching - Teacher Residency program in 2021.
2. Why did you decide to become a teacher?
I studied sociology and psychology at North Carolina A&T University, but I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with it. A professor suggested I try teaching. I completed an internship as a theater teacher at a local high school in Greensboro, NC, and just fell in love with it. During that internship I was able to build so many bonds with scholars that allowed me to see that teaching is more than just academics. I was more than just their teacher. I was a listening ear and a daily hug.
3. What are some of your favorite things about your role?
One thing I like is my subject matter. It’s funny - initially I begged to be removed from a math class. I hated math as a child and was not confident as an adult. But I had to stick with it, and I couldn’t be more grateful. Not only did I build content knowledge which helped me become a better teacher and an even more confident adult, but I am able to relate to scholars who aren’t so enthusiastic about the subject and brainstorm ways to make it more appealing and intriguing.
A second thing I love is watching my scholars grow under instruction by my teacher resident, Ms. Cooper. In the beginning of the year she was so afraid to teach a full lesson. After having several talks and really internalizing our lessons, I slowly watched her gain confidence in herself. I remember reviewing our growth data in the middle of the year and realizing we had some of the results in our region. It was like winning a big game and moving to the championship. Georgia Milestones here we come! [Georgia Milestones are end-of-year assessments]
4. What did you enjoy most about your Relay experience? What do you most use in the classroom today?
Building connections and setting high expectations for students have been two of the most important things/mindsets I’ve learned from my Relay courses. You can be the most knowledgeable teacher with the best classroom management skills and it won’t mean a thing if scholars don't feel like you genuinely care about them.
My Relay classmates also had a huge impact on me. We grew from classmates (complete strangers), to coworkers, to friends, and now family. Grad school is not easy, and grad school during a pandemic is insane. I'm so grateful that I made the friends I did in my cohort. They took “holding each other accountable” to a whole new level. I've never experienced being so annoyed but also so grateful for a person all at the same time until I met my “cheetah crew.”
5. Every day we hear about teachers leaving the profession. What makes you stay, and where are you going from here?
Teaching is hard. Some days I walk out with the biggest smile and a full heart. Other days I walk out questioning why I even stepped into this field. Every job has its highs and lows. Leaving the profession has definitely been a thought that's crossed my mind. But I feel like my purpose/my calling is greater than a bad day here and there.
My goal each year is always to grow. Personally and professionally. My hopes for next year is to simply be exactly what my scholars need to succeed. Whether that be more content knowledge, more patience, or simply keeping up with the latest tik-tok dances.
Thank you to Ms. Byrd for being a Relay Brand Ambassador and for all of the amazing work you do for your students and community!