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Teach for America draws seniors

Aaron Steiner | Tuesday, November 28, 2006

As fall semester draws near, seniors are exploring their post-undergraduate options, and for many Notre Dame students, this search leads them to teaching service programs like Notre Dame’s Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE) and Teach for America.

One in 10 Notre Dame graduates will enter into one or two yearlong service programs after graduation – including graduates who enter into teaching programs, according to the Center for Social Concerns.

Notre Dame founded the Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE) in 1993 to support under-funded Catholic schools nationwide. Participants receive a master’s degree in education from Notre Dame, earn a teacher’s salary and teach in a Catholic school for two years after graduation.

Teach for America graduates teach in rural and urban public schools across the nation for two years and also earn a teacher’s salary.

Both programs are popular for Notre Dame graduates who want to enter into a post-graduate service program, said Andrea Shappell, associate professional specialist at the Center for Social Concerns. She added that teaching program participants make up one-third of all post-graduate service participants.

ACE Assistant Director Chris Kowalski said the program is meant to support a system that has provided an education for many graduates.

“You’re serving a great need,” Kowalski said. “It gives recent college graduates a great opportunity to give back.”

Teach for America communications director Sara Blasing stated that students apply to the program because “they believe educational inequity is our nation’s most pressing issue – and that it is solvable.”

Both programs accept students from any institution as long as they have earned a bachelor’s degree and meet other specified criteria.

ACE accepts students from all majors and programs, Kowalski said.

“We have applicants from all majors … from fine arts to even the most specific engineering degrees,” he said.

But ACE especially encourages students with science, math and foreign language majors to apply, because the greatest need for teachers is in these areas, Kowalski said.

The program usually has room to accept 90 applicants each year to serve in 31 cities, Kowalski said, and in recent years the program has accepted one in four applicants.

Notre Dame graduates continue to make up a large portion of ACE participants, Kowalski said, but said “off-campus applications have increased over the years.”

Blasing said that applicant pools vary from year to year, with a roughly even distribution of majors and programs represented. The number of students accepted, she said, “varies from year to year as the number of qualified students varies.

“For instance, last year nearly 19,000 students applied, with more than 2,400 actually starting to teach this past fall,” Blasing said.

In 2005, 37 Notre Dame graduates joined Teach for America, she said.

Two years in a teaching service program gives students not only time to further discern a career path, but the chance to gain and develop valuable skills, Kowalski said.

“The skills you’ll gain – dealing with children, parents, colleagues – will help in any field,” he said.

While graduates of the ACE program enter into all career fields, he said, 70 percent of ACE graduates typically continue to work in education.

“Teach For America graduates enter careers across all sectors including education, social policy, medicine, law, business and other areas which ultimately will address the social inequity that ultimately yields educational inequity,” Blasing said.

Both Blasing and Kowalski agreed participants are better off after participating in teaching programs.

“[Teaching service programs] lead students down an outstanding path no matter what field you may ultimately find yourself,” Blasing said. “Alumni have a greater social impact regardless of the professional sector they choose to enter.”

A Teach for America representative will address students who are interested in the program during an information session Wednesday and will also show a CNN documentary about Teach for America Thursday. Both sessions begin at 7 p.m. in 129 DeBartolo Hall.

Seniors and all students interested in learning more about Teach for America should attend, Blasing said.

Both Teach for America and ACE are currently accepting applications for graduating seniors, with deadlines this January.