Each year, several recent NYU graduates return to school, not as graduate students, but as teachers in low-income schools for Teach for America. TFA employs dedicated young teachers in an effort to eliminate education inequality.
Anna Le, NYU’s campus campaign coordinator for TFA, said her personal experience sparked her interest in TFA.
“I am very passionate about educational equity because I am from a low-income background,” Le said. “Growing up, I personally witnessed the difference income makes in the quality of education students receive.”
Graduates from many different fields, including psychology, film and political science enter the teaching profession through the program. NYU had 30 graduates in 2012 and 38 in 2013 enter the field of education through TFA.
Gerald Jean-Baptiste, class of 2012 and an English teacher in Miami, said TFA helped him when he was a student, so he understands what current students struggle with.
“Going to NYU and seeing the struggles I faced there, I understood that education was key to social uplift, so I knew I wanted to be involved in that,” Jean-Baptiste said. “Especially doing Teach for America in Miami, it gave me the chance to work with kids who come from the same background as me. It’s really something that’s tied to my life story.”
According to TFA, only 8 percent of students living in poverty will graduate college by age 24. TFA’s mission is to ensure all kids receive an excellent education. However, TFA has recently come under fire for providing their teachers with only five weeks of training, compared to teachers who receive degrees in education.
“Plenty of my classmates deserved to go to a great school like NYU but didn’t have the opportunity because of the many additional challenges of poverty,” Le said. “I hate the idea that some students cannot even begin to dream about going here because of where they live or how much money their parents make.”
It is not just the students who learn from the program, the teachers themselves learn about education inequality and the current educational system. For Le, the process is just beginning — she will be working for TFA in Baltimore next year.
“I am looking forward to meeting my students and getting to know them and their families,” Le said. “There is so much potential in each student, and I am very excited to learn about their interests, what they enjoy and to spark their interests with whatever I am teaching.”
Jean-Baptiste said NYU students considering the program should know the importance of the work they will do with TFA.
“It’s one of the most rewarding jobs you can ever have,” he said. “Without us, Teach For America and the young teacher movement, it would be a lot harder to make change. We are very, very important.”
A version of this article appeared in the Thursday, Feb. 13 print edition. Bailey Evans is a staff writer. Email her at [email protected]