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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

TFA hosts panel for recruitment

Published: October 21, 2011
Section: News

Teach For America, a growing movement of leaders working to ensure impoverished children have access to quality education, hosted an alumni panel at Brandeis on Monday to recruit students interested in enlisting for two years of service.

Once selected, service members are placed in one of 43 national regions for two years. Service members are given an annual stipend of between $30,000 and $50,000, depending on the economy of the region, as well as comprehensive health benefits.

Shaina Gilbert ’10 spoke with students about her current service teaching math, history, science and English as a second language (ESL) to a class of Haitian-American students through Teach For America. All of Gilbert’s students were forced to immigrate to America following the 2010 earthquake in Haiti.

Gilbert reflected that she is helping to carry out Brandeis’ mission of social justice through her work. Gilbert is currently a Teach For America service member in the Boston public school system.

“I share a cultural sameness with my students,” Gilbert said, “but there is also a tremendous educational gap between us. But if you know why you’re in the classroom, you can do it.”

“Leadership comes in all shapes and sizes. This will be the hardest and most rewarding thing you ever do,” Teach For America recruitment manager Angela Callado said.

Callado decided to become a recruitment manager following her years in service in the Dallas, Texas, school system. She saw how the students in her class advanced dramatically under her supervision and wanted to ensure that high-quality service members will continue to put Teach For America’s mission into action.

Callado observed first-hand the impact of poverty on educational opportunities for students and learned how students’ access to a quality education is largely based on the zip code in which they are raised.

“All students deserve a quality education,” Callado said. “When schools can’t meet the needs of children, Teach For America steps in.”

Teach For America annually seeks out service members who see challenges as opportunities. Applicants must have strong problem-solving and organizational skills and recognize the strengths and weaknesses of different students.

Callado said that Teach For America is unique because it focuses on helping needy students, in addition to advancing the long-term career goals of its teachers. In her presentation, Callado emphasized that, after two years of service, teachers frequently apply skills and lessons acquired in the classroom to a wide range of professions.

While many teachers choose to continue teaching, others pursue careers in law, business, medicine and the arts, carrying their knowledge learned in service with them and applying it to their work. “As a corps member you can have a real tangible impact on students by helping them achieve academically in the classroom,” Callado said. “However, teachers are also having an incredible experience because they are being exposed to how housing, legal, health and education policies all break down for our low income communities.”

For Gilbert, the challenge is that many of the students she teaches are learning at a kindergarten level and she works to bring them to a level between the sixth and eighth grades. Due to the circumstances of the children’s arrival to the United States, Gilbert teaches in the students’ native language, Haitian Creole.

“There will be some rough days but, at the end of the day, I appreciate my kids and the community that their school builds to protect its children,” Gilbert said.

In 2010, Gilbert joined Nate Rosenblum ’10 in creating the Brandeis Haiti Relief Effort, an organization that now exists as Brandeis Haiti Initiative. She also founded ETE Camp, a free summer camp for the children of Hinche, Haiti.

In her conclusion Callado stressed that poverty is beatable and education is one way to beat it. Teach For America currently reaches 600,000 students, but 16 million face challenges of poverty.

“In the past two years we have had over 25 Brandeis graduates join our movement to end educational inequity,” Callado said. “We strive to work with communities, not change communities. Our goal is ending educational inequity in the United States today.”