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Teach for America Recruiting Now

Info session tomorrow, deadline fast approaching

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Teach for America volunteers meeting at the School of Education. Photo by Kalman Zabarsky

It’s been more than 20 years since Teach for America began offering students in low-income schools a chance for a better education, and young college grads the opportunity to contribute to that goal, by training college graduates to be teachers in low-income neighborhoods. In its initial year, 1990, 500 men and women—many with no experience in education—began teaching in six poor communities. This year, more than 8,200 “corps members,” as they’re called, are teaching in some 39 urban and rural areas throughout the country.

Anyone interested in becoming a corps member or who just wants to find out more about it can attend an information session and alumni panel on Thursday, January 27, at 7 p.m. in the Howard Thurman Center. College grads and students graduating this spring have until Friday, February 4, to submit the first part of the application for next fall’s program.

The nonprofit TFA takes successful college graduates and places them in low-income school districts. The program aims to recruit outstanding people from all backgrounds in an effort to eliminate the educational inequality that exists for children born into low-income communities. Since its founding, TFA has had over 20,000 members, among them 161 BU graduates. Most important, the program has helped to educate more than three million students across the country.

Any way that people can get into teaching and make a difference is worthwhile, says Amy Slate, the director of educational initiatives at the School of Education. “Not everyone considers the traditional path into teaching, but often those who are accepted to Teach for America realize that teaching is an amazing career that they’ve never considered,” she says. “They spend two years making a difference in schools that really need dedicated, motivated young teachers.”

The application process takes between 8 and 12 weeks. The first part of the application, due by next Friday, takes only a few hours to complete. It asks for background information, a résumé, and a letter of intent. The next step is a 30-minute phone interview, and finalists attend a final, daylong interview.

Acceptance into TFA is competitive: last year, 200 BU students applied to the program, with 35 enrolling, bringing BU’s current TFA enrollment to 68 people. BU was among the country’s top large schools (those with more than 10,000 undergraduates) sending students into the program, and had a higher acceptance rate, about 18 percent, than other schools. Last year, only about 12 percent of a record 46,000 people applying to TFA nationwide were accepted.

“As far as BU students having a higher acceptance rate than the national average,” says Slate, “I think that is an obvious commentary on the superb preparation that these BU students have, both academically and in terms of their leadership abilities and overall motivation.”

Applicants are judged on leadership experience, perseverance, critical thinking, organizational skills, and ability to work with people from diverse backgrounds, among other criteria. Those applying to the program must also have a minimum cumulative GPA of 2.50 and must be prepared to make a two-year commitment. It’s important to note that the program does not require a degree in education, or even any prior course work in teaching.

Missy Goldberg (CAS’11), BU’s TFA campus representative, applied and was accepted to the program when enrollment first began a few months ago. Soon after, she applied to be a campus representative because she wanted to get the word out about why others should sign up to make a difference.

“The tough competition speaks for the organization,” Goldberg says. “People see TFA as a strong movement and a good cause. TFA has a strong mission to end education inequity, and I wanted to be a part of that.”

By recruiting the country’s most promising future leaders, TFA aims to improve the education and life prospects for the nation’s poorest children. Statistics show that only half of students living in low-income neighborhoods will graduate high school by age 18 and that only one in ten poor children will graduate from college. The program seeks to end the disadvantages they currently face. 

Accepted members participate in a rigorous five-week training program that prepares them to lead a classroom, and they continue to receive ongoing professional development while in the program.

Corps members also receive a full salary, benefits that include health insurance, and an education voucher that can be used to pay off school loans or fund further education.

The Greater Boston chapter of TFA is only two years old, and volunteers serve schools in Boston, Chelsea, Revere, and Lawrence. Applicants can indicate where in the country they would like to be placed, but there are no placement guarantees.

Current TFA corps member Michael Rubino (COM’09) is teaching sixth grade math at Revere’s Garfield Middle School. He applied to the program, he says, because it allowed him to pursue his twin interests of working with youth and fighting education inequality.

“The program has been challenging, but also incredibly rewarding,” Rubino says. “Working with my kids to set them up for academic success has been the most fulfilling work I’ve ever done.”

SED has partnered with TFA, allowing corps members to teach during the day while taking courses to become certified as teachers, with the option of earning a master’s degree.

“I would really highly encourage anyone considering applying to TFA to attend the information session, so they can understand the organization and hear the people in the corps discuss why they think the program is so important and why they enjoy it,” Goldberg says. “There are kids who really need great teachers, and I think this is an opportunity for BU people to really make a tangible difference.”

An information session and alumni panel for those who are interested in becoming corps members is being held on Thursday, January 27, at 7 p.m. in the Howard Thurman Center, in the lower level of the George Sherman Union, 775 Commonwealth Ave. The deadline to complete the first part of the application process is Friday, February 4. Questions? Contact Melissa Goldberg at mbg@bu.edu.

Amy Laskowski can be reached at amlaskow@bu.edu.

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