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Meet Corps Members Damaris and Brandon


My New Aventura

By: Damaris Zamudio-Galvan | 2022 Nashville-Chattanooga Corps Member| Aventura Community School

“Bilingualism is a superpower.” A simple sentence with unimaginable impact. A sentence that I repeat to my students every day because I wish that someone had said it to me when I was their age. Growing up, I always felt like I was part of two worlds that were perfectly split between the languages I spoke. Spanish at home. English at school. The two hardly ever blended. As I progressed through my academic and professional careers, the space between them only seemed to widen. Eventually, I came to accept that, as much as I desperately wanted them to, the two would likely never overlap. Then, when I was accepted into the 2022 Corps, Teach for America brought me to a school nestled inside a quiet neighborhood in Southeast Nashville. Aventura – a small but mighty bilingual charter that has changed my life forever. 

Though the thought of being part of a founding team during my first year of teaching was daunting, Aventura’s mission statement caught my attention: “Elevate peace and justice by inspiring our diverse community to live as curious global citizens dedicated to changing the world.” With its four core pillars being Bilingual Education, Purposeful Academics, Global Competence, and Committed Community, Aventura’s approach to education seemed like the perfect fit. When I signed my acceptance letter, I was unaware of just how much working at this school would impact me. 

Every day, I walk into a building full of incredible educators from all over the world. It is most definitely the most diverse space that I have ever been part of. The significance of working with successful professionals whose mannerisms and characteristics remind me of my parents is more than I could ever possibly put into words. I am comforted by the fact that this is the world that my students know, and I am hopeful that it means they will never feel the disconnect that I did. Because of our dual immersion program, more students can communicate in their heart language, and all students can see the value of bilingualism. This value is then applied to their daily school routine in a variety of ways: project-passed learning that incorporates biliteracy (reading and writing in both English and Spanish), social-emotional learning in two languages, and peer conversations with all students who speak either language. 

Working at Aventura for the past two years has been such a gift. Teaching in a bilingual setting has been one of the most difficult things I have done (biliteracy takes lots of patience, trust, and practice), but it has also made me feel like I have a place in this world where all parts of my identity are valued and celebrated. While I will no longer be in Nashville next year, I’m incredibly motivated to continue learning about bilingual instructional methods to improve my practice. As for Aventura, I am certain that this school will grow to be a force in Nashville, and I am honored to have gotten the opportunity to be part of such a special community.


Inspiring Change

By: Brandon Pence | 2023 Nashville-Chattanooga Corps Member | 9th Grade Algebra 1 | East Ridge High School

Brandon Pence's journey to teaching 9th-grade Algebra at East Ridge High School began as a student at Grand Valley State University where he studied sociology. After graduating, Brandon explored career opportunities in the non-profit, community organizing, and private school sectors where he gained skills and experiences that would support him on his journey as an advocate for students.

Eventually, Brandon embarked on a new career trajectory with Teach For America Nashville-Chattanooga. The organization provided an opportunity for Brandon to have a direct, tangible impact in a high-need classroom. As a corps member, he is committed to being part of a movement full of fired-up and compassionate aspiring educators. 

“I am proud to represent TFA and the work we are doing in the Nashville-Chattanooga region to bring equity to education. I appreciate the support and the mentoring provided by the organization. In pre-service practicum and throughout this school year, I have felt that I am part of a movement of energized, compassionate educators. I most appreciate how TFA has served to better connect me with my local community,” Brandon proclaimed. “I am looking forward to this spring and the relationships we will continue to nurture in our classroom. I am excited to celebrate the students I teach as we reflect on our learning and growth over the course of this school year.”

Brandon is now part of a movement dedicated to providing every child with access to a high-quality education. Like many other corps members, his efforts will support the development of East Ridge High students and beyond.

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