Teach for America eager to draw more NU applicants

Abha Bhattarai

Teach for America already accepted 17 Northwestern seniors to its corps of teachers, but there’s still room for more. At an informational meeting Tuesday night, Midwest recruitment director Laura Nalley said she hopes to recruit about 20 more NU students by Friday’s application deadline.

Teach for America recruits college seniors to teach underprivileged students for two years at elementary and secondary schools across the country.

Applicants are not required to have any experience in education or teaching. Nalley said only 2 percent of the students who apply are education majors. Nalley, a former teacher for the program, said she encourages students who are up for a challenge.

“It’s been the hardest thing I’ve ever done,” she said. “But we know it’s important to give students the same opportunities, no matter where they are. They can achieve, and they do.”

NU’s Teach for America campaign managers and Nalley organized a screening of a CNN documentary about Teach for America to publicize the program.

The documentary followed four corps members, including Terrenda White, Education ’02. Teach for America also distributed brochures about the program that included information about the application process.

The application for seniors, which requires a resume, essay and letter of intent, is available on Teach for America’s Web site, www.teachforamerica.org.

Accepted students attend a 5-week summer workshop where, among other things, they learn to design lesson plans, how to discipline children and methods for addressing issues that may affect students outside of the classroom.

Nalley said about 40 of the 2,000 students accepted last year were from NU. About 1 of 3 NU applicants were accepted in comparison to about 1 of 6 applicants nationwide.

Weinberg senior Erin Stauber was accepted to the program earlier this year. She will be teaching elementary school in the Mississippi delta region.

“The idea of doing this has been sitting in the back of my mind since freshman year,” Stauber said. “I hope I will be able to help children and become a part of a community that I’m unfamiliar with.”

Nalley said about half of the students continue teaching after the program, while others move on to graduate school and other careers. Many graduate schools, including NU’s Feinberg School of Medicine, allow students accepted to Teach for America to defer their admission for two years.

“We really want people from the program to branch out into fields like medicine, law or business (after teaching),” she said. “It’s important that people in those positions are aware of the challenges these students face.”

Rebecca Maltzman, one of Teach for America’s NU campaign managers, said she plans to apply what she learns as a teacher to her future career.

“I’m really committed to working for low-income issues in the future,” said Maltzman, an Education senior. “I think I will learn a lot so that I’ll be able to take to a job as a lawyer or politician later.”

Many students said they hope the program will ease the transition from college to work.

“We’ve all had a privileged education at Northwestern,” Stauber said. “I think it’s important for us to take the things we’ve learned and help students in places where getting a college education at a place like this would otherwise be an impossible dream.”

Reach Abha Bhattarai at [email protected].