Teach For America, a chance for service members to continue serving after the military
Service members who are in the process of transitioning from the military and have a desire to continue to serve the nation may find a good fit with Teach For America by becoming teachers and working in high-need schools in urban and rural areas across the country for a two-year period.
Teach For America is a nonprofit organization founded in 1990 that works in partnership with communities to expand educational opportunity for children facing the challenges of poverty by recruiting recent college graduates and professionals. However, the organization’s Veterans Initiative that began in 2012 seeks eligible service members to apply to the TFA program as a way to share their leadership skills and cultural adaptability across the realm of education.
“We believe education is your ticket to being whatever you wish to be,” said Vanessa Descalzi, TFA spokesperson.
Descalzi said that veterans’ leadership skills, adaptability and cross-cultural experience are qualities that set them up for success as TFA teachers.
“During the interview process, we look for individuals who show leadership potential and have other traits that are found in our most successful teachers,” she said. “We’ve found incredible crossover between these traits and those valued by the military – including perseverance in the face of challenges, ability to adapt to changing environments, and a strong desire to do whatever it takes to improve and develop.”
The requirements for TFA applicants include having a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university with a minimum 2.5 undergraduate cumulative grade point average on a 4.0 scale, have U.S. citizenship or permanent resident status, or have received deferred action for childhood arrivals.
There are four parts to the application process with the first three taking place online.
The first step is to fill out the online application by visiting www.teachforamerica.org/you-servedamerica now-teach-america and clicking on the green Apply to the Corps tab located in the upper right hand corner. Applicants will fill out basic information, provide a letter of intent, and include why they want to teach; why would they be impactful to children in low income communities.
Step two is an online exercise where applicants are asked situational questions that apply to a classroom setting and how they as a teacher would respond.
Step three is a phone interview. During this time, applicants are asked to share, based off their letter of intent, why they think they would be a good fit for TFA. According to Descalzi, this provides the interviewer the chance to get to know more about the applicants’ thinking and background.
The final step is an in-person day where five to 10 applicants gather at a final interview site. The day begins with applicants giving a five-minute sample lesson followed by a small-group activity. The groups are given a classroom scenario and together they must create a solution. According to Descalzi, this group event showcases applicants’ critical thinking skills and how they work as a team. Once this is finished there is a one-on-one interview.
“After the lesson and group project there is an individual interview,” said Descalzi. “ Applicants should be prepared to answer why they are attracted to Teach For America and what draws them to this educational vocation. We look at applicants holistically, to include their leadership experiences and overall experiences; we look at these widely.”
“We noticed that the traits and skills we were seeing in our most effective teachers were among those skills among our military members that they learned in their time in service,” she said. “They have leadership and organizational skills; great classroom management; the ability to adapt in an unstable environment and they have a great ability to make relationships across diverse settings. They have great cross-cultural experience.”
Descalzi said the TFA program comprises 48 regions and 35 states to include the District of Columbia. There are approximately 80 members who are currently working in their first year.
When asked how many veterans have entered classrooms through TFA, Descalzi said, “Since we began tracking in 2008 we’ve had 153 veterans enter classrooms through Teach For America. Our 2013 incoming corps includes about 80 veterans. In our total corps we have over 100 veterans.”
She shared that when former service members were asked why they joined, they said their desire to serve the country didn’t end when their military service did, that they wanted to be part of something bigger than themselves and that they were called to TFA’s mission.