Teaching Opportunity

Teach For America (TFA), a program that looks to extend educational opportunities to disadvantaged youth, is currently accepting applications from professionals, graduate students and college seniors across the country.

The first out of five application deadlines passed on Aug. 24, the second on Sept. 14 and the third will be on Nov. 2. Future deadlines for TFA are Jan. 11 and Feb. 15.

Applications are submitted online, following the completion of an online activity. Applicants then complete a 30-minute phone interview, an in-person interview and, if admitted into the program, learn about their assignments and accept or decline the offer, according to a TFA pamphlet which notes that applications are non-binding.

Beth King, internship coordinator at the Career Resource Center (CRC) said the CRC can help with any part of the application process. She said the program is highly competitive and, at some point in the process, students are asked to come up with a lesson plan.

“I encourage students to apply as soon as possible because the process can take several months,” King said. “Students may be disappointed when they are not accepted.”

The prerequisites of the program are a bachelor’s degree with an undergraduate GPA of 2.5 and U.S. citizenship or national/permanent-resident status. International students may be eligible to teach in their home country through TFA’s global network, Teach For All.

King said students interested in the program should pursue leadership roles on their campus, as leadership skills are a fundamental attribute recruiters look for.

“There’s many ways to get involved,” King said. “The trick is to get involved.”

King said students should consider joining clubs on campus and taking on high positions with greater responsibilities.

Crystal Tang, TFA director of recruitment in New York, said a total of 15 New Paltz students have been accepted into the program.

King said TFA and programs like it are attractive to students because most of them want meaningful careers and to make a difference.  She said it also gives them the opportunity to live in a new place and is a great way to help fund graduate school.

TFA corps (hires are referred to as corps members) are full-time teachers and receive full salaries and the same comprehensive health benefits as other beginning teachers, according to the pamphlet. Additional benefits such as funding for relocation, testing, start-up costs and help with student loans are also available.

Fourth-year Black Studies major Jada Young and fourth-year psychology major DaShawn Wilson, both recently submitted applications and were invited to do phone interviews. Both students said they heard of TFA before applying.

Wilson said the other applicants he knew encouraged him to apply.

“I was told that it’s a wonderful program filled with opportunities,” Wilson said.

Young said she heard mostly negative comments about the program.

“Some argue that TFA uses schools with a majority population of people of color as a guinea pig, of sorts, to ‘test’ out new teachers who have little to no experience,” Young said.

Young said she also read that some who apply to the program don’t really care for the students and are there simply to reap the benefits.

Studies show that there are 15 million children in America living in poverty, and according to TFA, only 8 percent of students growing up in poverty graduate from college by the time they’re 24, compared to the 80 percent of students in more affluent areas.

Tang said she believes educational equity is one of the nation’s most pressing issues. She said that the effect of geographic location on a person’s educational opportunities is unfair.

“If you want to be a part of a movement to end educational inequity and be in work where you’ll have a tangible impact on students’ lives, then you should learn more about Teach For America and other similar organizations that are working to close the achievement gap in our country,” Tang said.