Getting his feet wet

Swimmer headed into the classroom to Teach For America

Devon Best '12, Wheaton Althletic Mentor, Teach for America RecipientUntil he was in fourth grade, Devon Best ’12, a Wheaton Athletic Mentor, says he was considered the problem child in the classroom. He wouldn’t turn in assignments, and, worse than that, “I just didn’t care,” he recalls.

But that all changed with one teacher—Ms. Booth.

“After I forgot my first homework assignment, she sat me down and negotiated a ‘plan’ with me. If I forgot another assignment, I would stay after school to complete it. If I handed in five assignments in a row, I would be off the plan, but if I forgot another one I was back on it. About halfway through the year I realized I was never off the plan, and I confronted her. All she said was, ‘Exactly, welcome to life!’… She really taught me the value of learning and how success and hard work are one and the same. She helped make me the dedicated student I am today.”

Now, Best, a psychology major, is hoping to be the same kind of positive influence for other young students. He has been selected for Teach For America, a select corps of college graduates who commit to teaching for two years in low-income communities across the nation. He will be a math teacher at a high school in Jacksonville, Fla.

“Most of my professors at Wheaton, especially Professor Bianca Murphy, have inspired me to want to become an enthusiastic educator who can capture a student’s attention,” says Best.

Working as a camp counselor for a few summers, he realized that he enjoys the challenge of balancing fun with education to get the optimal attention from children. Competing on the men’s swimming and diving team (he holds the record in the 200 backstroke and the 800 freestyle relay), he learned how to presevere and how to work in support of others toward a common goal.

This summer he will spend six weeks at a Teach For America institute in Chicago training to gain more experience in being an effective teacher and leader, which will be important for his future plan to become a doctor.

“The ability to effectively pass along information is an underdeveloped skill in our individualistic society. As a physician, I will need to educate patients on how to achieve and maintain good health. To do this effectively, I have to be able to convey the importance of the information while making sure the information is well understood.”

He has wanted to be a doctor since high school, when he faced a multitude of medical complications, ranging from appendicitis to a broken back. “After being a patient for so many years, I began to learn a lot about medicine. That combined with my passion to help others has made me set my sights on medical school for some time now.

“Since I have been an athlete most of my life and also had the unique opportunity to be a research assistant in an orthopedic research lab at the University of Arizona this past summer, I would like to go into sports medicine, specifically surgery.”

Photo by Amie Rosenblum ‘12