With 14 graduates joining Teach for America last year, DePauw University made the list of top Teach For America contributors 2016.
Teach for America (TFA) is an organization that aims to give kids in underprivileged areas of the United States access to an education. Their mission, according to the CEO, Elisa Villanueva Beard, is to recruit, train, support and mobilize future leaders of the country to teach kids, aiming to get rid of the inequality.
Kirstyn Walker ’16 is currently in the Milwaukee area teaching at an alternative inner city school. She was first introduced to Teach for America through a roommate that she had while at DePauw. “I just saw a lot of people who were doing this and I didn’t know what I wanted to do after graduation so I looked into it more,” Walker said.
Beard also graduated from DePauw in 1998 and then went to teach for the organization before moving up to CEO. “I think one of the reasons DePauw contributes so many graduates is because students are very oriented to service,” said Beard. “They think more about injustices that others face.”
Sophomore Audrey Smith, is excited about hearing so many graduates from DePauw in the organization. “In my opinion the education system does need some work and I think the values that DePauw holds are great for future teachers,” Smith said.
While Teach for America is attempting to serve the underprivileged, there is some controversy surrounding the organization since members only have minimal training before being on the job. Most members are only trained for a few weeks compared to education undergraduates who study for years. The success of the organization has not been hindered by these controversies as they had 3,400 graduates become teachers this past year according to Beard.
Beard also said that the organization likes hearing the critiques so they can continue to improve their organization. “In the kind of hard work that we do there is always room to improve,” Beard said.
Despite the controversies and a lower number of applications, Teach for America continues to improve and place more students in teaching positions. Walker enjoys her position because it allows her to watch the students grow. “Being able to see them continue towards graduation is such a rewarding experience,” Walker said, “Seeing them more motivated to come to school, to do better for their families or children, is something that you can’t put into words.”
While the program’s goal is to help kids who don’t have access to an education, there are also benefits for the teachers. “I have a two year commitment, but during those two years I have access to many alumni from the Teach for America organization, and I can get my master’s degree at a reduced price,” Walker said.
The program is as strong as ever, according to Beard. She hopes that one day she can put herself out of a job, because that means every kid in America has access to a good education.