Washington and Lee contributes strong numbers to Teach for America

Seven graduates from the class of 2018 are currently teaching at low-income schools through the program

Elizabeth Bell

The number of graduates from Washington and Lee University who join Teach for America tripled last year, making the university a top contributor.

“When compared to other universities similar in size, W&L had one of the highest number of students from the 2018 graduating senior class join the corps,” Rebecca Schuster, a Teach for America recruitment manager, said.

In the class of 2018, 35 Washington and Lee students applied to Teach for America, which Schuster said was a 50 percent increase compared to the classes of 2016 and 2017. Seven Washington and Lee graduates from the class of 2018 went on to join the corps.

Schuster said many graduates join Teach for America because it allows them to make a meaningful impact. The goal of Teach for America is to end educational inequity. Graduates who join the corps teach for two years in a low-income community.

Alex Cline, ‘19, interns for Teach for America as a campus campaign coordinator.

“The TFA experience has allowed me to gain a better understanding of the issues facing students and our education system in the U.S.,” Cline said. “ I enjoy having the opportunity to bridge that gap and make educational equity a priority for students and young people.”

Only 14 percent of children who grew up in poverty will graduate from college within eight years of high school graduation, according to Teach for America’s website.

Corp members are trained through a six-week summer program called “Institute,” where they learn the fundamentals of teaching, educational equity and inclusion. The corp members also teach sum- mer classes under the supervision of an expert teacher. Then, they lead their own classroom for the next two school years.

Lorena Hernandez Barcena, ‘19, is considering joining Teach for America after she graduates. She was offered an early spot in the corps.

“I got a Teach for America offer without them ever having seen me instruct in any way. They had never seen me teach,” she said.

Hernandez Barcena, who is majoring in economics with minors in education policy and poverty studies, said she wants to make an im- pact on the country’s education system, whether it is in the classroom or through public policy.

“I always thought about Teach for America as a possibility, and

then when I got into college and realized that I was really interested in education policy I thought that it would be really important to spend some time in the classroom as a teacher,” she said.

Hernandez Barcena will teach as a middle school generalist if she chooses to accept her position in the corps.

“What I really love about middle school is that they’re mature enough to be thinking about really big life decisions but they haven’t made the decisions yet,” she said.

Eighty-five percent of Teach for America alumni are now working in education or careers serving low-income communities, according to their website.

“Ultimately, I love being in the classroom and I think that I would be really, really happy if I spent most of my life in the classroom. I think I would feel fulfilled,” Hernandez Barcena said. “There’s also a part of me that thinks I would also be really happy in public policy and feel fulfilled. I’m really interested in community-based research.”

Schuster says that graduates who join Teach for America have the opportunity to make an immediate impact.

“Classroom leadership becomes a doorway to leadership in edu- cation, policy, medicine, entrepreneurship, business, nonprofit work or otherwise,” she said. “TFA alumni join a diverse and supportive network of over 60,000 leaders working collectively to expand opportunity for all kids.”