Teach for America looks to Temple for contributors

Temple is teaching its students to teach for America.

The university is among the top contributors of students for the Teach For America program, a national nonprofit organization that works to place students and professionals in teaching positions across the country and strives to create a school system that provides all children – regardless of income or location – with a quality education.

This year alone, there are 33 alumni working through the organization at schools across the country.

Temple appears on the Top 25 list of contributors on a regular basis. Last year, more than 100 Temple students applied for the national program.

“Where you grow up should not determine the quality of education that you get, but in so many communities across the country that is the case,” said David Peters, a TFA employee.

TFA also partners with AmeriCorps, a federal community service organization, and with local and state governments to find and place qualified candidates in teaching positions, where these individuals – also referred to as “corps members” – become employees of the school districts in which they teach.

In this school year alone, 10,000 TFA teachers are instructing 750,000 students in classrooms and schools across the United States.

TFA is organized into 52 different regions, and each region caters to the specific needs of the geographic area in which they work.

Peters has worked as a recruitment manager in the Philadelphia office for two years. A former AmeriCorps member himself, Peters taught special education math in an all-boy’s high school in West Philadelphia.

In his current capacity, Peters is in contact with Temple students interested in pursuing a career through TFA.

He recognizes “the spirit of unity through diversity,” which he believes is component that makes Temple students especially suited for TFA.

“I count my lucky stars that I’m able to work with Temple,” Peters said. “The students at Temple’s campus are unbelievable. They are some of the most talented, interesting, passionate students I’ve ever had the chance to work with.”

TFA maintains certain core values that are expected of its applicants: transformational change, leadership, team effort, diversity, respect and humility.

Temple alumna Elaine Salanik said she finds diversity to be just one of the values she encounters everyday in her teaching experience through TFA.

Salanik is currently teaching in Clarksdale, Mississippi at Sherard Elementary School, a rural school in a low-income area of the South. Before moving south to Mississippi, she attended summer training, organized by TFA, in preparation for her coming school year.

“We spent a lot of hours this summer learning to teach across racial and cultural differences,” Salanik said.

In an effort to better prepare the teachers for their classrooms, TFA works to prepare their students and professionals through summer training.

Nora Reynolds, a teacher for Education for Liberation Here and Abroad is also a former corps member.

She is currently pursuing her Ph.D. at Temple, where she is researching urban education.

Through TFA, Reynolds taught first and second graders at Potter-Thomas Elementary School near Temple’s Main Campus.

As a native Philadelphian, Reynolds insisted TFA place her in a Philadelphia school.

During her time as a corps member, Reynolds learned the importance of “personal” education policy, an idea that influences her teaching and research today.

“I fell in love with my 32 first-grade students,” Reynolds said.

As a professor, Reynolds said she praises the College of Education and its commitment to real life, hands-on experience for its students.

Reynolds said the Urban Education department frequently advocates for direct interaction with the local public schools of Philadelphia.

“I feel very lucky that the Urban Education department very much recognizes the work of ‘doing,’” Reynolds said.

Finnian Saylor can be reached at finnian.saylor@temple.edu

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