Teach for America: What I Learned about Myself and My World

“I was coming from a place of genuine desire to help end educational inequality and a passion for working with children. The application process really made me think about what made me happy in life. I learned about how much learning and teaching really means to me.”

Many students leave college with big dreams … and no idea what to do with them. Enter Teach For America (TFA), a nonprofit organization that recruits recent grads to teach in underfunded and underserved school districts for two years.

It turns out, even just applying for TFA can lead to important self-discoveries.

One Florida student, Jamie Tremblay, decided to apply because she had no specific career plans and wanted to travel. Tremblay grew up in Pinellas County, graduating from both high school and college there, so when her brother told her about Teach For America, she jumped at the chance to change her landscape. Plus, TFA’s mission of closing the achievement gap aligned with her own compulsion to give back.

We asked Tremblay to talk us through the application process, which can be more involved than applying for a traditional job. There are two tiers: answering general questions about one’s academic and life experiences and completing an in-depth profile, lesson plan, and teaching demonstration.

During the interview, Tremblay found herself getting pretty personal. “So much of the educational inequities in this country stem from racist and outdated zoning policies. Sharing why I, a middle-class white woman, felt that I could connect with low-income students and students of color required a lot of honesty, vulnerability, and reflection about my intentions.”

Tremblay continues, “I was coming from a place of genuine desire to help end educational inequality and a passion for working with children. The application process really made me think about what made me happy in life. I learned about how much learning and teaching really means to me.”

Ultimately, Tremblay’s emotional gamble paid off, and she was accepted into the program. Unfortunately, the pandemic forced her to decline the offer. In some ways, Tremblay felt relieved from the potential pressures of living in a new community and being responsible for large groups of schoolchildren, but she is also disappointed about not having the chance to rise to the challenge. “I had plans of volunteering with after-school programs and sports and building relationships with the students,” she said.

Although she won’t be joining Teach For America this year, Tremblay isn’t coming away empty-handed. “I fully intend to continue the mission to end educational inequality, even if it isn’t in the original way I thought,” she says. “My 20s have been a very confusing time for me, exploring what I want and who I am. As cheesy as it sounds, I now know that I want to help make the world a better place. I don’t know what that looks like yet, but teaching is definitely still on the table.”

You can learn more about Teach for America at TeachForAmerica.org

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