Students continue to Teach for America

W&L remains among the top producers of students for Teach for America

The Teach for America logo. Photo courtesy of the Washington and Lee Website.

The Teach for America logo. Photo courtesy of the Washington and Lee Website.

Sutton Travis

Investment banks, law schools, medical schools: the typical postgraduate plans for driven Washington and Lee students. But there is another high-achieving program to which the university is recognized for contributing.

According to a press release from Teach for America on Sept. 8, Washington and Lee has been named for sending the most graduates to participate in the TFA program among the top small schools nationwide. This is the third consecutive year that W&L has received the recognition.       

“I would say what makes W&L students prime candidates are their leadership skills and their desire to make an impact in the world,” Araceli Jacobs, Teach for America Recruitment Manager for W&L, said. “It has been a pleasure to hear the way Generals embrace community responsibility and are able to utilize their unique gifts and talents to change their community, challenge discourse and embrace diverse experiences.”

An organization dedicated to increasing educational opportunities for impoverished children, TFA selects about 15 percent of its applicants each year to form a corps of 8,800 members. These members agree to a two-year commitment of teaching in schools designated as ‘high-need’ in both rural and urban areas.

In the past three years, W&L has sent 35 graduating seniors to TFA, with 21 of these serving as current corps members. In 2015, 10 W&L seniors joined the ranks of TFA, tying for fifth place with Amherst College, College of the Holy Cross and Allegheny College for number of participators from small schools.

“W&L students hold high expectations for themselves and foster strong senses of integrity,” Jacobs said. “Our teachers are transformational leaders, and W&L students have the ability to make an influential impact on a child’s life. As a person from a low income community who didn’t have access to a quality education, I am deeply humbled by Generals who choose to join this work to eliminate educational inequity in our country.”

Nationally, more than two-thirds of corps members opt to continue a third year after completing their initial commitment. Danny Murray, ’13, is currently in his third year of teaching at North Star Academy in Newark, New Jersey. Murray also trained incoming teachers this past summer at the Philadelphia National Institute.

“Through the teacher training and my master’s program, which TFA helped me achieve, I had some of the best preparation in the entire country,” Murray said. “More specifically, being a TFA teacher challenges your preconceived notions in and out of the classroom. I approach the world with a different mindset and analytically approach problems with much more of a growth mindset. However; most of all, joining TFA taught me humility. Being a teacher is extremely humble, and I am a better person for it.”

TFA alumni that transition to another career continue to draw on their experiences as corps members, like Ramsay Kubal, ’13, does in her job at Chalkbeat, a nonprofit news organization.

“There is a lot of talk about what’s going on in schools today,” Kubal said. “A lot of people are shouting solutions, and a vast majority of the population lacks a clear understanding.

We are committed to providing bottom-up coverage of local communities to educate stakeholders–parents, legislators, teachers, administrators–and inform decision making. My learnings from my corps commitment are directly tied to the work I do now.”

Although Megan Doherty, ’19, was already considering becoming a teacher, after attending TFA’s Oct. 7 on-campus information session, she said she now plans to initially pursue her career through applying for the program.

“TFA reaches impoverished areas, and it also will provide me with immediate employment if I choose to stay in that school system,” Doherty said. “It allows for college grads to go out of their comfort zone and see a side of America they may have never even thought about.”