by Claire Miller
When she graduated from the University of Tennessee this past May, Emma Thomas, a journalism and political science major, wasn’t sure if she wanted to become a reporter.
“As much as I loved journalism and telling someone’s story, I didn’t know if I wanted to make a career out of that,” said Thomas, who this fall will be working toward a teaching degree in middle level language arts and social studies from Georgia State University’s College of Education through Teach for America (TFA). “I felt like I wanted to do something that would help others and make a difference in their lives every day.”
Teach For America is a national organization that places committed teachers in urban and rural public schools to help minimize the nationwide achievement gap. Following a rigorous application and interview process, those accepted into TFA are given the unique opportunity to start teaching while attending classes at a university to earn their teaching degree.
TFA members also get to specify where they would like to take classes. Georgia State is close to home for Thomas, a Henry County, Ga., native, who tailored her degree program to fit her academic interests – language arts and history.
“I’ve heard great things about GSU and the College of Education and I feel lucky to have the opportunity to obtain my master’s degree here while having this incredible impact on children,” she said. “Many of my friends are either trying to find a job or looking into master’s programs, and I get to do a combination of both.”
The College of Education has worked with TFA for three years, and this year’s group of 174 members is the largest the college has enrolled. They attended a COE orientation on June 22 to find out more about their classes and get better acquainted with the college.
For the last two years, the college has worked with TFA to prepare corps members in math, science, English, social studies, early childhood education, and special education. This year, the college will be training the largest number of TFA members thus far, including over 90 early childhood education majors. In addition, the college has added TFA specific cohorts in math and science to accommodate the increasing number of members who want to teach those high-need subjects.
“In the past, we haven’t had enough TFA students enrolled in math and science to create their own cohorts, so they were integrated in with our regular teacher prep students,” said Joyce Many, associate dean for academic programs. “But this year, we have more than 20 students in these subjects, which is a really exciting development for us.”
According to Many, the college’s collaboration with TFA works well because it brings together people who have the content knowledge and the desire to make a difference with the COE’s faculty and staff, who help them develop into great teachers.
“TFA brings intelligent young people into education who are very focused on diversity and have a passion for improving urban schools, which are missions that we share,” she said. “They bring the drive and the dedication, and we give them the skills they need to become the most effective teachers they can be. It takes both of us to make it work.”
For more information about Teach for America, visit www.teachforamerica.org.