Teach for America hopeful in final round of interviews

Every year, thousands of recent college graduates apply to Teach for America and dedicate themselves to improving underachieving schools nationwide. Their placement directly combats the higher rates of teacher layoffs and budget cuts such schools face.

Kayla Murphy, a senior in the College of Health Sciences and the Teach for America campus campaign coordinator for Marquette, has made it to the final round of interviews and is passionate about the group’s social justice mission. She said one does not have to go too far to see the educational gap that the program focuses on.

“We have all made it to college and have plans for the future,” Murphy said. “But once you walk off this campus, you realize not everyone lives the life we live.”

She believes programs like Teach for America and City Year a program designed to solve the dropout crisis through a year’s worth of tutoring and mentoring — help solve problems regarding education inequity.

She recalled a situation where some students in an eighth-grade classroom were reading on fourth- and fifth-grade levels but improved in one year. She believes the improvement was due to corps member dedication.

“By the time Teach for America corps members left, students not only met their grade level, but they surpassed it,” Murphy said.

Helen Hillis, a sophomore in the College of Arts & Sciences and also a campus coordinator for the program, agreed. She has a long-standing family history of involvement with the program.

“My brothers were corps members in Chicago and Lake Village, Ark. — two different atmospheres solving the same problem,” Hillis said.

Though the word “teach” is in the title, one does not need to be an education major to apply. In fact, there are non-education related areas in demand.

“Science and math are big-need areas,” Murphy said. “Ask any principal and they’ll say ‘I need more math and science teachers.'”

Though there are other programs like it, Teach for America differs in that it is nationally known and members say it has the potential to solve socioeconomic problems.

Corps members, as they are called, receive the same rate of pay and benefits packages as professional teachers. The program also goes unaffected by a recently high number of teacher layoffs.

“Corps members are growing and our goal is to keep increasing,” Murphy said.

Although there are many benefits to participating in Teach for America, it is not the only option for someone who wants to get involved in the field of education.

Samantha Landry, a senior in the College of Communication is considering Teach for America, but is also thinking about teaching English in South Korea through a program called EPIK.

The EPIK program runs through the Korean Ministry of Education and is designed to improve the English of students and teachers.