For the next two years, five members of the Class of 2017 will provide high-quality education to young children in some of the nation’s most challenged communities through Teach For America (TFA).
Stephanie Glass, Coleen Kletzly, Ellen Martin, Margaret Peale and O’Jeanique Washington have committed to become corps members of TFA, where they will teach in urban and rural low-income public schools in one of the nonprofit’s 53 regions that partners with communities most impacted by educational inequity.
TFA recruits diverse and talented leaders who are committed to expanding opportunity for the nation’s highest-need children. Its mission is "to enlist, develop and mobilize as many as possible of the nation's most promising future leaders to grow and strengthen the movement for educational equity and excellence."
Glass, a communication major and a journalism minor who is originally from Chillicothe, Ohio, will be working with students at the elementary level in Indianapolis, Ind.
“I decided to join Teach for America because I had an internship last summer that opened my eyes to the inequality of education in our nation,” she said. “I worked with students in inner-city Cincinnati and became familiar with a lot of the struggles they faced in their education, even from a really early age…I feel that education is an area where I can make a big impact. An excellent education should be something that every student has access to, regardless of their race or socioeconomic status.”
A recruiter from TFA reached out to Glass in December and talked to her about the organization.
“I was attracted to the organization's understanding of teaching as transformative leadership, and I am excited to be trained as a teacher who will not just equip my students with the information they need to succeed, but will help them to become change agents and advocates for themselves and others. I will be an elementary educator, so my classroom will be no younger than kindergarten and no older than third grade.”
Glass said that each school that partners with TFA does so out of need from the school. The school enters a voluntary partnership with TFA, which is usually initiated by the school. Many of the partner schools are in low-income areas where many educators do not necessarily want to work.
Once they have a classroom placement, corps members spend the summer before the school year in TFA training, which includes pre-work that is made up of videos and reading about educational pedagogy, issues faced in education today, and stories of transformational teachers and how they lead their classrooms. Each will also spend five weeks in Houston, Texas, for more intensive classroom training.
Once the school year begins, corps members are matched with a TFA mentor who will be their touchpoint for growing as an educator.
“I think Wittenberg has helped prepare me for this career by fostering my passion for service and giving me the confidence to take opportunities to serve others that may seem beyond my reach,” Glass added. “It's a little scary to think about leading my own classroom and being responsible for the education of so many students, but I feel prepared to lead these students. Wittenberg has taught me how to work hard, ask questions and to be just crazy enough to dream big and make a difference.”
Kletzly, an early childhood education major and psychology minor from Columbus, Ohio, will be assigned to a school in Tulsa, Okla.
“I chose TFA for many reasons,” said Kletzly, who is certified to teach early childhood and will most likely be working with kindergarten-aged students. “First, I am a strong advocate for fighting for equality in education. I believe that our highly-qualified teachers are not in schools where they are needed the most (in urban settings). I think the American education system is extremely flawed, and as a nation we lack motivated teachers. Therefore, I chose TFA and to move to Tulsa for this very reason. Oklahoma’s education systems are hurting. They are in dire need of passionate and motivated teachers, and this high need caught my attention."
Kletzly also chose TFA because she will be able to receive a master’s degree through the organization for free or at least at a discounted rate.
“I hope to one day get a master’s degree in school psychology,” she said. “Due to TFA and its support/opportunities, I will be able to do so much more as a teacher than I thought possible. We are required to teach for them for at least two years and then we can continue, move to another school, go to graduate school or leave the program.”
During the two-year commitment, corps members will be teaching full-time as a paid employee of the school in which they are assigned.
“Wittenberg provided me with the strong education, which has made me stand out among other core members for TFA,” Kletzly added. “It gave me my summer internship with Freedom School, which mirrors TFA's philosophy, and I believe that internship helped me get this job. Wittenberg also gave me my sorority, Delta Gamma. I was referred to the program by a sorority sister who had graduated a year before me. She is now teaching in Memphis, Tennessee, for TFA. Additionally, the faculty of the education department has been very supportive of my decision. I feel more than prepared for this next chapter of my life."
Peale, an early childhood education major from Covington, Ky., will be assigned to a school in Charlotte, N.C.
“I applied to TFA because I have known for a long time that I want to teach in an urban, low-income setting, and TFA provides the perfect platform for that,” she said. “I am able to do exactly what I had planned, and I was able to apply and commit early. This saved me quite a bit of stress in my last semester."
Peale said she is confident she has been prepared well by Wittenberg for this opportunity.
“I credit my education professors, advisor, faculty and staff for giving me all the tools I need to succeed with Teach For America," she said.
Washington will teach at the middle-school level in Dallas, Texas, and Martin will teach special education in Idaho.
TFA began in 1989 as Wendy Kopp’s senior thesis at Princeton University. At the time, academic outcomes for low-income kids had not changed in a century, school districts were facing a national teacher shortage, and the United States was navigating the first wave of a competitive global economy that required a workforce with evolving skills and knowledge. Kopp’s plan was to recruit high-performing college graduates to teach in high-need urban and rural schools, so in December 1989, she gathered 100 part-time student recruiters from 100 universities to begin TFA’s first recruiting season. To learn more, go to https://www.teachforamerica.org/about-us/our-story/our-history