Teach For America draws numerous students from University

The University was ranked sixth for the highest number of students to join Teach for America within large schools of the United States. 

Fifty five students last year joined TFA, a teaching corps that selects college graduates and individuals with work experience to teach in low-income school districts. In the 2013 to 2014 school year, TFA placed 11,000 members to teach over 750,000 students in schools, according to its website. 

TFA’s main goal is to eliminate education inequality by finding, training and supporting recent college graduates and professionals to teach those who do not have access to an education comparable to wealthier school districts. 

Over 500 Illinois alumni have participated as corps members in TFA since it was founded in 1990. Each TFA participant commits two years to teaching in high-need schools.

Elora Tocci, communications manager of TFA Chicago, said in an email that many students are recruited from the University because its goals align with TFA’s goals.  

“TFA is a great way to empower high-need students and ultimately become a lifelong advocate for equity and social justice,” Tocci said. “The university’s focus on and dedication to diversity is also closely aligned with TFA’s focus on diversity, equity and inclusion.”

Alumna Angela Ramiro is currently serving her first year in the TFA program. She has been positioned in Memphis, Tennessee, teaching second grade students in an elementary school ranked in the bottom five percent. 

“As a first year teacher, it is frustrating, exhausting and hard. When people talk about the education gap and they say where you live will tell someone about their education, it’s true,” Ramiro said. “They (the students) have showed me I have had a privileged life. It shows me I didn’t have to worry about if my lights were on or if I had money for school supplies or food stamps for the next week. They have taught me what it means to work for your education, because they work for it.” 

Jennifer Neef, associate director of the Career Center, said she is proud to see the University ranked as one of the top ten producers of TFA teachers. 

“TFA has a long history of doing excellent work and the fact that U of I students are very talented and driven to give back is great,” Neef said. 

The Career Center offers TFA as an option to students who are interested in teaching and also giving back to the community.  

“Personally, I think that it’s a very viable option for students who want to pursue service upon graduation,” Neef said. “It leads to fantastic longer goal opportunities. Even for students who haven’t already thought about it, it’s a great program.”

Kadara Owoye, senior in Business, is currently in the process of applying for TFA. She decided to apply after a member of her business fraternity referred her to a recruiter. 

“I want to join because I believe in Teach for America’s ultimate goal of fighting education inequality,” Owoye said.

Neef said one of the main groups of students that take part in TFA are students in STEM, or Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics education. Neef said she predicts students in this discipline will continue to be a large part of TFA in the future.

“I think that campus can be proud of the graduate’s commitments to do service opportunities like this,” Neef said. 

Pauline can be reached at pgaffne2@dailyillini.com.