U students urged to apply to Teach For America

Anna Weggel

Andy Moore had only one job in mind when it was time to graduate from the University in 2003 – he was going to stay in school.

But this time, he said, he was going to teach.

Moore said that after he graduated with a political science degree and paid his own way through college without loans, he knew joining Teach For America was right for him.

Moore came to the University on Wednesday from Miami Beach, Fla., where he teaches ninth-grade world history, to talk to University students about his organization. Teach For America selects recent U.S. college graduates to teach for two years in low-income communities nationwide.

The organization’s main goal is to create equal education opportunities for all children and eliminate education barriers, Moore said.

He said he believes there are two United States – one where children are provided with fair education opportunities, and one where children’s education is hindered by where they live.

“Teach For America is trying to change that, to alter their course Ö to bridge that gap,” he said.

Moore said the selection process is very careful. Last year, 2,000 graduates were chosen nationwide out of 13,500 applicants, he said.

“We only take the best and put them there,” he said. “We’re looking for more than a typical student.”

Laila Akhter, biochemistry and physiology junior, said she is planning to apply to the organization after she graduates.

“I really think this is an amazing program,” she said.

Akhter said that although she plans to attend medical school, she wants to teach for a few years before that.

“I’m interested in making a difference and helping other people, not just being a doctor,” she said.

Siobhan Ehle, Teach For America recruitment director, also told students about her first teaching experience with kindergarten students in a bilingual school.

“The first year in the classroom is immensely challenging,” she said. “Here I was – young, white and teaching in my second language.”

Ehle said she had trouble with students on her first day of class because they had never been to school before.

“Some were crying; some rushed in; they were everywhere,” she said. “They didn’t know I was an authority figure.”

But after using music, visual aids and experimental learning projects such as a butterfly farm and plants, Ehle said, she saw a difference in the students.

“They weren’t all over the place, because they were engaged,” she said.

Ehle said eight University students worked for the program last year. Organizers want more University applicants this year, she said.

Although the organization is a step in the right direction, Ehle said, there is more to be done to bridge the education gap in the United States.

“For all that we have accomplished and for all that our teachers are accomplishing Ö we still have yet to scratch the surface,” she said. “This is a massive problem.”

Anne Christensen, a Teach For America employee at the University, said applications are up 36 percent nationwide from this time last year. Teacher applications for 2005 are due Feb. 18.