More UO students than ever to “Teach for America”

The AmeriCorps program Teach for America has claimed the top spot as the program employing the most UO students.

The largest number of university students ever to be accepted – 38 – will venture into every region of the country this fall to give children from lower-income families an education equal to that of their wealthier peers.

Teach for America eliminates educational inequity in the United States by recruiting committed college graduates and professionals of all backgrounds to teach for two years in lower-income urban and rural public schools.

New recruits are offered training and development to quickly bring them up to speed so they can teach at a high level.

The impact upon students is fast and positive – but the effect on the TFA teachers may be even more profound.

While the children receive a higher-quality education, TFA members receive extensive professional development, including credit toward their teaching credentials and, potentially, Master’s degrees. Teaching salaries depend upon the region they work in, but can be anywhere from $30,000 to $51,000, in addition to health insurance and benefits. Teachers also receive an AmeriCorps education award of up to $11,000 upon completion of their two-year service.

Timothy Harris, TFA’s northwest recruitment manager, said participating students “have the potential to achieve at the highest levels” and “work relentlessly” to put their students on improved academic paths.

Last year, more than 10,000 Corps members taught 750,000 students in regions throughout the United States. Next year, those numbers are expected to increase.

The number of UO applicants who accepted positions this year is a 10 percent increase over last year. “The interest for education equity is growing,” Harris said. “The UO’s spirit of social justice and strong sense of advocacy is what I believe drives students to pursue Teach for America.”

The program frequently switches off the number one or two spot with the Peace Corps for hiring UO grads, particularly liberal arts majors, according to Amanda Devereux, UO Career Center associate director of employer relations.

Among the qualities TFA looks for in recruits is a deep belief in the potential of all kids and a commitment to do whatever it takes to expand their opportunities.

Jenny Linstead, 21, a double major in English and Japanese, will teach in Los Angeles.

Linstead attended high school in Portland, where she experienced a system that propelled middle- to upper-middle-class white students into advanced placement and honors courses while leaving others behind. She noted the devastating effects on some students' self-confidence.

“I became outraged at this inequity,” she said, and joined TFA to receive “the support, resources and opportunities” to become a career teacher working with lower-income students in southeast Portland.

Max Londberg, a 22-year-old Salem native, is graduating with a degree in journalism and a minor in Spanish and communication studies. He will be placed in a yet-to-be-determined city in Connecticut and said he applied to TFA because of the opportunity for “incredible personal growth and to be an enthusiastic and competent teacher for my students.”

“For the first time in my life,” Londberg added, “I will be responsible for someone other than myself.”

-by Aria Seligmann, UO Office of Strategic Communications