Teach For America provides post-graduate incentives

Courtesy Photo / Teach for America

Leslie-Bernard Joseph taught in New York City in 2007 for Teach for America.

Courtesy photo

Courtesy Photo / Teach for America Leslie-Bernard Joseph taught in New York City in 2007 for Teach for America.

Ryan Jarvi

Though Grand Valley State University is ranked third in the state for the number of graduated students joining the Teach For America Corps, these numbers are still lower than other universities across the nation — including Michigan State University and the University of Michigan.

Though GVSU is on pace for double-digit membership this year, only eight of its graduates joined TFA last year.

“I believe eight from a school like Grand Valley is far too small,” said Randy Warren, TFA recruitment manager of Michigan.

Other schools across the nation with populations over 10,000 have around 80 graduates entering TFA, he said.

“One of my priorities is to ensure that Grand Valley is stepping up to be a leader,” Warren said, mentioning a goal of 15 members from GVSU annually.

TFA is a member of the AmeriCorps national service network and is a non-profit organization that hires college graduates to teach K-12 in education-stricken regions across the U.S. There are currently 10,400 TFA teachers nationwide, with 5,800 of those being first-year members.

TFA is not only for individuals with an education degree, its members come from a variety of fields including health care, law and communications.

“We enlist the most capable and committed college graduates from all academic areas to actually become teachers in one of 46 regions throughout America,” Warren said.

TFA Corps members may specify any preferred regions, academic level or subjects they would like to teach, but individuals are ultimately placed according to where their skills are most needed.

Members are employed for two years, receive full salaries and benefits through their district and are certified teachers. Salaries range from $25,500 to $51,000 depending on location. In addition, AmeriCorps also awards Corps members up to $6,500 per year to be used for educational purposes, such as paying off student loans or funding further schooling.

There are also many intrinsic benefits to joining TFA, said Jeff Mutch, coordinator for the Community Service Learning Center at GVSU.

“Basically you’re gaining work experience, helping to give back, working with kids and addressing issues of education, which is one of the probably most urgent issues we’re facing in the United States,” Mutch said.

Other job and educational opportunities are available to those associated with TFA. Certain graduate schools will offer preferential acceptance to Teach For America alumni and will defer students’ enrollment for two years while they serve in the program, Mutch said.

“It’s just a really good way to address a public need, get some real world experience, and be giving back and receiving a lot from it at the same time,” Mutch said. “Especially here at Grand Valley where our Laker values are really centered quite a bit around service and community. It’s a big part of who we are, it’s a big part of who our students are and who our alumni members are.”

Natalie Cleary graduated from GVSU last year, but has been interested in TFA since her junior year after taking a class that focused on education inequality in America.

“I got really interested in education inequality and got interested in how many people in America don’t have access to quality education,” Cleary said.

After serving as student body president at GVSU and earning a degree in political science, she began her training for TFA and is currently teaching in Detroit.

“Before going into it, I was nervous about what I would encounter and wasn’t sure about what I was getting into,” Cleary said. “But as my experiences have gone on, I’ve really enjoyed it and I’ve learned so much—I wouldn’t change it.”

Warren said TFA exists for the sole reason of achieving quality education at a national level.

“There’s no better time to have a profound impact, and no better way to do it than to be a teacher,” he said.

Applicants must have a bachelor’s degree by the first day of their summer training and must have a cumulative undergraduate GPA of 2.5. The deadline to apply is Feb. 15. To apply or get more information on TFA, visit www.teachforamerica.org.

For other service opportunity information visit the Community Service Learning Center located in 1110B Kirkhof.
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