TFA turns students into leaders
Teach for America is a competitive program on the Hill, accepting only a small number of applicants.
According to a study done by the Organization for Economic and Co-operation and Development, the United States is ranked 25th and 24th respectively among other developed nations in math and science assessment scores. Teach For America (TFA) is an organization that aims to establish the world leadership role of the US by staying competitive in education, particularly by addressing the educational inadequacies prominent in low-income communities.
Following their four years at Colby, graduates choose a variety of paths; one possibility is to join Teach for America. Currently, 11 Colby graduates from the class of 2010 are serving the program around the country.
TFA is a non-profit organization that was created in 1990 by a senior at Princeton University. From its onset, TFA sought to address poverty and educational inequity by recruiting recent college graduates as well as professionals to serve as teachers. Right now, TFA is in 39 urban and rural areas where the achievement gap has been identified as greatest.
Two Colby graduates, Tom Milaschewski ’09 and Scott Brown ’10, are TFA teachers. They are officially known as “corps members,” in Boston, an area with a corps size of 50. Milaschewski is teaching Special Education at the Lilla G. Frederick Pilot Middle School in Dorchester, MA. Brown teaches Algebra I, Algebra Foundations and Probability and Statistics at Lawrence High School in Lawrence, MA.
According to Tasha De Sherbinin ’11, the Campus Campaign Coordinator for TFA at Colby, a common misunderstanding about TFA is that it only draws teachers from specific majors and experiences. De Sherbinin explained, “Many students think that TFA is just for Education majors. However, this is not the case at all. We encourage students of all majors to apply because we need teachers with specializations in all subject areas. TFA takes care of all the training and provides extensive support, so all of our teachers are prepared to go into classrooms by September.”
Milaschewski was a Spanish and international studies double major at Colby where he was also played on the varsity soccer team. He shared that his Spanish has been useful in maintaining communication with his students parents and in teaching in Spanish when necessary.
Brown was an economics major and captain of the soccer team his senior year at Colby. He now acts as the high school’s volunteer soccer coach. Despite the variety of backgrounds, education and professional experiences, TFA seeks to accept members who have demonstrated leadership qualities that can be translated into leadership within a classroom.
TFA provides corps members with five weeks of training prior to entering the classroom and offers continuous support and resources for corps members throughout their two years.
Additionally, the corps members are offered varying support within the school where they teach. Contrary to the assumption that TFA corps members are unwelcome by their school communities, Brown asserted, “My school gave me a very warm welcome upon arrival. The principal immediately nicknamed me ‘Downtown Scotty Brown.’”
Milaschewski also had a positive experience: he stated, “Some [other] teachers are very helpful” and explained that showing respect to the more experienced teachers ensures a smooth transition and relationship.
In addition to their basic teaching salary TFA corps members receive a 35 percent scholarship as well as a $5,000 donation from AmeriCorps towards earning their masters degree at the institution of their choice.
By providing schools with full-time teachers, TFA helps address the problem of overcapacity in many school districts. These full-time teachers are leaders who assist students in academic learning and overall skill building. Simultaneously, TFA corps members gain first-hand knowledge of the challenges facing students in low-income communities that often propels TFA alums to pursue the reduction of the achievement gap beyond the TFA program.
Following TFA, many corps alums become principals, political and business leaders, doctors, lawyers and social entrepreneurs. A group of six recent TFA alums are running the Brick Avon Academy in Newark, New Jersey, a teacher-run public school with 650 children from kindergarten to eighth grade, with the intention of improving education through an enthusiastic, collaborative effort.
The first TFA application deadline passed on October 27; however, upcoming deadlines are December 17, 2010 and February 4, 2011, offering seniors another opportunity for application.