Teacher Education Program
Charissa Saenz, TAC '04, High School English
Charissa's original plan at age six was to become an astronaut/artist so that she could paint masterpieces on the moon. Although she never made that trip to the moon, she has certainly traveled the distance. Charissa was born in Tucson, AZ and raised in El Paso, TX on the border of Mexico. With the exception of a few exciting summers in the Big Apple at the School of American Ballet, she spent the majority of her high school years in Texas until the age of 16. After that, sunny California became her home.Charissa Saenz
Charissa attended UCLA with a major in World Arts and Cultures. This led to further educational opportunities in Europe, India, and Mexico. During this time, she began teaching dance through a program called "Arts 4 City Youth" in the projects of East L.A. From the onset, she knew that this was far more rewarding than waiting tables and attending excruciating dance auditions in Hollywood. However, as much as she loved teaching dance, she preferred to be in an academic setting where communication with her students could be experienced through literature, writing, and discussion. Eager to begin teaching, Charissa applied to the TAC program at Harvard. The rest is history. Well, actually, the rest is yet to come. She is back in her hometown of El Paso, TX teaching English to a restless bunch of 9th grade students who think their teacher is "quirky and interesting".
"Although I'd like to assume that I am greatly affecting my young students' lives in ways that will motivate them to pursue their education with undying determination and courage, the only true thing that I can say without a doubt is that they are the ones affecting me! They are teaching me that truth begets truth, respect begets respect, and perseverance begets perseverance."
"Before I took that big step into the world of education, TEP gave me an education that I would never forget! It has given me the resources to remain strong in a field that is so prone to disillusionment, exhaustion, and disappointment. It was mainly through example and action that I was able to witness firsthand the impact that education is supposed to have on young lives. An intense program such as this chips away at one's weaknesses and strengthens them. By the end of the year, I was left with an exhausted mind, a quivering heart, and a relentless soul. I was finally aware of the ‘cost' of good teaching and I was eager and willing to begin."
"If you are in the least bit intimidated by Harvard (the better-thans, the richer-thans, the smarter-thans), don't be! I was at first, but to my pleasant surprise, my colleagues were some of the most down to earth, warm, loving people that I will probably ever meet. Of the people that I met outside of HGSE, I was just as fortunate. My year at Harvard was not only memorable because of the intellectual stimulus in and around the University, but I truly did my best to suck the marrow out of life. This could not have been accomplished without the encouragement of my colleagues, mentors, and professors."