Infusing Energy into Education: Teach For America

TFA_photoThe Miles Foundation recently hosted an appreciation and networking reception for our local Teach For America (TFA) corps. TFA recruits, trains, and deploys talented individuals to teach in low-income communities across the nation. In Dallas-Fort Worth alone, TFA supplies about 200 teachers to local school districts from Pre-K through 12th grade. The teachers’ diverse backgrounds, enthusiasm for the profession, and commitment to their students’ success made an immediate and impactful impression on us. We left feeling excited about the fresh perspectives, energy, and ideas they are bringing to public education in our community.

What stood out during our conversations with these educators was their passion for their students and their desire to engage students in the learning process. The teachers’ stories exemplified how deeply they believed in each student’s ability to succeed and the responsibility they felt to make sure they reached each individual.

Of course, not everything is rosy when it comes to helping kids – particularly in underserved neighborhoods – reach their potential. They also talked about the demands of balancing the testing requirements, lesson plans, paperwork, and professional training. As former public school teachers at Title I schools, our Program Director Jay McCall and his wife Tara both identified with their struggles.

Some of the candid snippets we heard from the TFA teachers included:

  • “I just want to focus on my kids [regarding the accumulation of paperwork and administrative obligations]…”
  • “Teacher to student ratio is a huge factor; I can only imagine the impact I could have with a smaller class size allowing me to give each student more individual attention. “
  • “The support and training I’ve received from TFA have been awesome. They’ve given me tools and ideas I can actually use in the classroom with my students.”

It was clear from our conversations that TFA has created a cohort of impressive leaders and educators within our local school districts. This anecdotal evidence is supported by data: 99% of DFW principals surveyed in 2013 said they would recommend a corps member to another principal given the opportunity.

The question we came away asking ourselves was: How can we, as a Private Foundation and as a community, support these TFA cohorts and all of the excellent teachers in Fort Worth?

What do you think? What are the best ways to support our great teachers who are performing a critical role in preparing and educating our future leaders?

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