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Teaching program recruits students

Laura McCrystal | Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Teach for America recruitment director Patrick Herrel told Notre Dame students Monday night that they can become involved both before and after graduation to solve “America’s greatest injustice.”

Teach for America recruits college undergraduates across the nation to spend two years on its teaching corps in public schools in 29 regions across the United States. Notre Dame, with 75 graduates currently teaching in the program, is one of the top 10 universities with the highest participation in the program, Herrel said.

Herrel, who taught in Charlotte, N.C. with Teach for America before he became a recruiter, spoke to a group of over 30 students at the information session targeted at sophomores and juniors. He said he was excited because it was the first time that the organization had hosted an event at Notre Dame specifically for underclassmen.

He said Teach for America is important because it allows recent college graduates not only to teach for two years, but also to commit themselves to solving education inequity in other careers after their teaching experience.

Katy Janik, a senior political science major and campus campaign coordinator for Teach for America, also spoke and described ways that Notre Dame students can become involved with Teach for America as undergraduates.

“What we really want to do is get the word out to as many people as possible,” she said.

She encouraged students to sign up to help post flyers, plan events, give presentations to classes and student organizations, and document information about prospective corps members. Janik has given over 50 presentations to Notre Dame students about Teach for America, which Herrel said is more than any other campus campaign coordinator. She said she became involved with Teach for America because she is passionate about education policy, and she also hopes to join the teaching corps.

Teach for America received 200 applications from the Notre Dame class of 2008, of which approximately 50 were accepted, Herrel said.

“We are looking for incredibly high-achieving individuals,” which he said can be apparent through multiple areas of involvement. “We know incredibly high achievers take that achievement into the classroom and expect the same from their students.”

Herrel said that the “punchline” for Teach for America is whether or not its teachers are making a difference for their students.

He cited studies, such as the Teach for America National Principal survey, which found that 61 percent of principals said Teach for America’s teachers were more effective than other beginning teachers in their impact on student achievement. He credited the program’s success with the community of support that it creates for its teachers.

“When you inevitably fail and struggle and it’s stressful and difficult, you’ve got a support system,” he said.

Je’Rell Rogers, a member of the class of 2008 is in his first year with Teach for America He teaches eighth grade English Language Arts in Houston and testified to both the challenge and the support in the program.

“Everyone will tell you how rough it is but you cannot possibly imagine how rough until you have stepped inside the classroom,” he said. “It is easy to lose your focus and sometimes motivation. Thankfully, Teach for America provides you with a lot of resources and tries to make things as nice as possible. It is not an easy job, but there is a dire need, and in the end, I am confident that I will see the fruits of my labor.”