Teach for America deadline

The last six months of my life have been dedicated to closing the educational “achievement gap” in the Chicago Public Schools. After spending four years studying chemistry at the University of Illinois – Urbana, I thought I had learned quite a bit as an over-achieving undergraduate. During my first six months of teaching with Teach For America, I came to a striking realization: you will never really learn something until you’ve tried teaching it.

You will never really learn what it means to impact a person’s life until a student stays after class to tell you, “Mr. Reimer, I hated science before I got to your class. Now chemistry is my favorite subject.”

You will never really learn what jubilation feels like until your body shivers with chills of excitement as your students exceed your expectations by designing a procedure so elaborate that it involves sticking an arm out the window, duct taping a thermometer to their elbow and finger, and using three group members to analyze the change in the body’s internal temperature as the external temperature is cooled. It is amazing to see what students come up with when given the opportunity to prove themselves. The need is for young, vibrant teachers willing to give students those opportunities.

You will never really learn what it means to “multi-task” until you are expected to attend graduate school, create unit plans, coach a sport, head up a club, attend professional development, call parents, and don’t forget – teach for eight hours a day. Teach For America is not considered to be one of BusinessWeek’s “Top 10 Places to Launch a Career” because they accept just any college graduate into the Corps.

As the February 15th application deadline approaches, I’d like to leave you with one final thought. I turned down a Fulbright Teaching Assistantship to Teach For America in the Chicago Public Schools for the next two years. Had I not done that, I never would have learned what my involvement in a fraternity, my job as a resident advisor, and my role as an undergraduate research assistant at the University of Illinois was really preparing me for — the ability to change the life direction the opportunities available to 150 students every single day.

So, what are you going to learn?

Neil Reimer

2007 Alumnus

Teacher- Farragut Career Academy, Chicago, IL