AmeriCorps Works: Kristina’s Story

K-3 Reading Corps tutor, Kristina Harkins, sat down to talk to MDC Reading Corps staff in honor of AmeriCorps week 2015 to share her insights into how she has seen AmeriCorps work for her students and her career.

If you were to look
back on your service 5 years from now, what is one moment that you know you will
still remember fondly?

It’s not necessarily one moment, but a series of moments.
Every time I’m able to use what I’m learning in grad school to connect with my
kids to help them own their learning and then when I watch my students sort of
“get it”; the light goes on. Now they’re owning their learning and they’re
helping me and we’re both growing in the same direction. We’re not competing or
struggling with one another in our sessions. I’m going to love that the most, those
moments when it just “clicks”.

What has been the
most valuable thing you’ve learned from your service so far?

So far I’ve learned that I shouldn’t beat myself up. I
really care about my students’ progress, so when they’re not doing as well as I
think they should be, I automatically start beating myself up, trying to figure
out what it is that I’m not doing right or what it is that I’m doing wrong.
It’s a good attitude to have, but at the same time it’s not a good attitude to
have. You don’t need to beat yourself up. You can reflect on what you’re doing
without casting blame, and instead just trying to look for solutions.

Why is national
service important?

National service is important because a lot of people have
opinions about how to fix our nation’s problems; we have senators and house
representatives on Capitol Hill who cast votes. We have people at home watching
CNN and Fox News, yelling at the TV, but to really know what the problems are
and understand them from the inside,
you need to be serving somewhere where there is a need so that you can start to
see the possible solutions. You’re only going to get a taste of that when
serving, but it’s better than what anyone else has; you have the inside view.

What are your plans
after this year?

Next year, I should be teaching high school chemistry
somewhere, either here in the US or abroad, I haven’t made up my mind yet. If I
do go abroad, Southeast Asia is on my list, particularly Hong Kong because a
year before I joined the Reading Corps, I was teaching in China and that really
solidified it for me – standing in those classrooms in Guangzhou and Yantai –
that this is what I want to do.  But it
also showed me where I was lacking, and the skills and abilities and knowledge
that I just didn’t have yet. So I knew I had to come back home and get that
stuff in order.

How did you choose
that path?

I graduated from undergrad and I spent six years
homeschooling my family and homeschooling other people’s families and I just
put my natural organizational abilities to use and I just kept going from

What are you most
excited about for your next step?

Where I’m going to end up; where my post will be. I’m hoping
it’s somewhere different. Even if I stay in the US, working in the nation’s
capital is nice, but I grew up here and I would like to see other areas in our
country and also other areas around the world. I’m really open to new