Katie Christovich, a fifth grade teacher in Loudoun County, VA, said she gained invaluable experience while working for On the Road as a Youth Leader.
“[On the Road] was a huge learning experience in how to connect … and about the building of relationships. And now that I’m a teacher, that’s the key point,” she said.
Katie always felt called to the classroom but she said her experience at On the Road helped her gain additional skills outside of her college degree in education.
“I really never questioned being a teacher. In elementary school, when people asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, it was being a teacher,” Katie remembered.
“But [On the Road] was a good transition into teaching and starting to get that classroom management and that behavior piece.”
Katie said while working with youth at On the Road, she came to view classroom management differently than she’d been taught, and it’s something she’s carried with her to the classroom.
“‘I learned that classroom management isn’t really about controlling behavior. It’s just about building relationships,” Katie added. “I think that’s something I’m really good at, and I’ve been recognized for it in my county. But I don’t think that just came naturally; I think On the Road was really helpful in me just learning how to make connections.”
Ross Gulliver, an English as a Second Language teacher and another of our former Youth Leaders, agrees.
“I’ve noticed that some of the social emotional learning tools that I picked up at On the Road have been really helpful,” he said. “There have been some professional development trainings that I’ve been to and I’m like ‘Oh yeah, I learned that On the Road.’ So, I feel like it did give me multiple head starts for my teaching.”
Ross Gulliver, second from right, with On the Road youth.
Ross now works for Augusta County Schools, where he splits his time between Stuarts Draft Middle School and Stuarts Draft High School.
Ross said he discovered his passion for teaching after graduating from James Madison University with a double major in Sociology and Spanish. He thought he’d find his way into nonprofit work, but ended up going overseas to teach in China, where he discovered how much he enjoyed the classroom.
When he returned to the States in 2017, he came back to JMU to get his Masters in education and found his way back into the classroom while working for On the Road. He started as an Academic Coach, tutoring youth one-on-one, before becoming a Youth Leader and then a Program Specialist.
“[Working with On the Road] gave me first-hand experience in the schools where I was able to meet teachers and administrators,” Ross added. “And that was big. It was really helpful.”
Ross (right) with Brent Holsinger and an On the Road youth during a Learning Showcase.
Both Ross and Katie agree that the hands-on experience working within the schools and with youth have been key to their role as teachers, but they also loved watching the youth grow and explore, too.
“I think some of the biggest takeaways were the Career Enrichment Courses and getting to see students … really come alive during those and exploring these careers that maybe they never heard of and starting to see, “Oh maybe I can do all sorts of stuff,” Ross said.
Katie agrees, adding that she loved seeing how much the youth got out of their time at On the Road.
“What I loved about On the Road was that it wasn’t just a homework club; it wasn’t kids staying after school and not even enjoying it,” Katie remembered. “The kids wanted to be there and the programs had so much structure. I’ve never seen anything like it since then.”
Katie with On the Road youth and one of our Community Teachers during a Career Enrichment Course.
Katie said she also gained insight from the various programs and experiences she attended as a Youth Leader.
”We got to help with the Career Enrichment Courses we were interested in, so I even learned alongside the kids,” Katie said, adding that she particularly loved getting to learn various recipes while helping out during Emerging Chefs.
Katie said one of her favorite times though was watching it all come together during the end-of-the-semester Learning Showcases, where youth have an opportunity to teach back what they’ve learned.
“They took ownership for everything that they were doing. It was awesome,” she remembered.
Katie with one of our On the Road youth.
Katie said her experience at On the Road also helped her narrow down where she wanted to work when she was looking for a teaching position.
“When I worked for On the Road, I really liked the demographics and that everyone had a different background and all the students had this uniqueness,” she said. “Even though a lot of them did have hard home lives and other struggles outside of school, that was the area that I found was a passion for me, and I don’t think I necessarily would have found that.”
Ross and Katie said they both hope others take advantage of the opportunity to work with On the Road because of how much it offered them, not just as teachers but as collaborators and mentors.
“I feel like it prepared me in so many different ways and just gave me a really valuable experience,” Ross said.
Katie agreed. “There’s nothing like On the Road. I think it’s an amazing program.”