Teach for America (TFA) is a nonprofit that has been sending teachers across America for the past 25 years. With 16 million American children facing poverty and only 6 percent of kids growing up in low-income communities graduating from college, TFA is ensuring that these kids get the education they deserve.
Representatives from the organization joined the CCNY community Thursday night (February 19th) to begin recruiting. The group showed a very honest recruitment video that followed three TFA teachers throughout their first year in the classroom. I say “honest” because instead of a catchy song and an abundance of smiles, it showed the hard work the job entails and the often disappointing results it can have.
Following the video, a panel of current Teach for America teachers took questions from the crowd. City College Alum Melody Niere – currently teaching in the South Bronx – was among them. Both herself and Columbia University graduate, Gani (teaching in the south side of Chicago), spoke of the hardships they face as teachers in underfunded schools but also of the rewarding nature of the work. When asked why one would sign up to teach in such difficult circumstances, Gani spoke of the “moral responsibility” she felt and how it was a privilege to be able to give back to the community.
Why then have applications fallen 10 percent over the last year? The simple answer is the economy has begun to recover. During the recent recession, jobs were scarce for graduates of even the most elite universities. But another reason has to do with the political criticisms of Teach for America. Time Magazine said of the issue, “Many argue that the way to fix ailing schools is not by packing classrooms with inexperienced new teachers but by providing higher salaries and better training programs for career educators.”
Despite its criticisms though, Teach for America is filling in where the government has dropped off. There is a dearth of teachers in America and until that problem is solved, this organization will continue to do what the Peace Corps has done for poverty-stricken countries. As Mel Niere says, “you do it for the kids”.