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UCD graduates flock in unprecedented numbers to Teach for America

By From page A3 | June 27, 2013

Members of the UC Davis Class of 2013 have shown an unprecedented level of interest in the Teach for America program.

Teach for America is a national corps of graduate students and professionals who commit to teach for two years in public schools, and its purpose is to ensure that children in low-income communities can still receive a good education.

More than two hundred members of the Class of 2013 applied to the program, and 37 were accepted. UCD had the fourth-highest application numbers in the UC system, and the third-highest application growth across the nation. Furthermore, UCD was among the top 10 schools in the country with the highest number of applications from Latino and Hispanic students, even though Latino and Hispanic students only comprise 16.5 percent of the UCD student population.

These UCD graduates will teach subjects such as special education, high school math and bilingual education in locations as varied as Sacramento, North Carolina and Dallas. They were honored by Mayor Joe Krovoza at a reception on May 29.

“(The reception) was really successful and a really great way to wrap up the year,” said UCD graduate Kayla Ruben, who will be participating in TFA and was also involved in recruitment for the program.

Both Ruben and her fellow campus recruiter Alicia Zamorano attributed the program’s popularity with the Class of 2013 to the organized effort put forth during the recruitment process. Zamorano said that management did a good job in connecting and used various ways to recruit students, such as appearing in classrooms or connecting with other student groups to help make people aware of Teach for America. Ruben also noted the diverse array of ways in which Teach for America recruited people, and added that “a lot of people had misconceptions about Teach for America.” For example, she said she was astonished at how many people had never even heard of it before the presentations.

Furthermore, both Zamorano and Ruben said that Teach for America was successful because of the interest in good works shared by many Davis students.

“There’s a really large presence on our campus of social activism, working for social justice, things like that,” Ruben said.

Teach for America volunteers such as Ruben, Zamorano and their fellow UCD graduate Emily Korwin are now undergoing Teach for America training before they begin teaching in the fall. The first step in training, Korwin said, consists of pre-institute work: reading articles or watching movies that have been assigned to them by the program. After completing pre-institute work, TFA participants meet the other teachers who will be working in the same region, both Ruben and Korwin said.

“I got to meet the other L.A. teachers and we had some really great conversations about education, issues that permeate education,” Ruben said.

The first week of actual training consists of learning teaching techniques, Zamorano said. She noted that among the techniques taught are lesson plan outlining and classroom management. Ruben also mentioned these lessons, and added that Teach for America trainees also undergo generalized diversity training and ELL (English Language Learner) training.

“We want to make sure (the students) are achieving what they want to achieve and how to really foster that in them,” Ruben said.

As part of their training, Zamorano, Ruben and Korwin all began teaching summer school. Zamorano added that they are not yet teaching the classes by themselves; they are also getting help from other teachers. After the teaching day is over, they continue with their training sessions, Zamorano said. Training is quite intensive, Korwin added, and can last from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Zamorano said that although Teach for America evaluates its applicants based on numerous criteria, “the most important thing is probably leadership.” She noted that organizational skills and the ability to perform under pressure are important components of this leadership. TFA, she said, “want(s) people who are able to push through obstacles.”

“I think that TFA is a great opportunity, especially if you’re going to graduate school,” Korwin said. She added that with Teach for America, you can “make a living while you’re teaching and going to school as well.”

“It’s a really great program,” Ruben said, “and a really big deal to do it.”

Paul Phillips

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