Kenyon has been named a top contributor of corps members to Teach For America, a nationwide nonprofit that recruits individuals to teach in schools of low-income communities for two or more years.
Just 14 percent of the 37,000 Teach For America applicants last year were selected to become corps members, said Page Harman, the Teach For America recruitment associate assigned to Kenyon. Last year, 28 Kenyon students applied, and seven were picked to embark on two-year commitments. This is Kenyon’s third year as a top contributor, also having made the list in 2009 and 2010.
“Becoming a Teach For America corps member allows Kenyon students to address systemic issues within the education system in a tangible way,” said Leslie Harding, associate director of career development. “The abilities to think critically and solve problems independently are just a sampling of the skills that Kenyon students bring into their roles as Teach For America corps members.”
Incoming corps members typically train for seven weeks before beginning work in August. They spend their first week in their placement region so they can become familiar with the school and area. The next five weeks take place at one of the organization’s several central locations where time is split between learning pedagogical practices, such as lesson planning and behavior management, and applying these skills by teaching summer school. Members return to their assigned region for the final week in order to set their goals and prepare for the coming school year.
Teach For America seeks out members who exhibit strong leadership skills and a dedication to their community. According to Harman, that Kenyon is a top contributor speaks volumes about Kenyon students. “What I have noticed about Kenyon students is just a true commitment to service,” Harman said. “I know that we are looking at a highly qualified group of individuals.”
Phoebe Roe ’16, a psychology major, is a new corps member based at a public school in New Orleans, where she teaches a 10th-grade English class and a work prep class for high school sophomores, juniors and seniors. Before college, she hadn’t considered a career in teaching. Her involvement as the founder of the Partnership of East Knox and Kenyon (PEKK), a program through which Kenyon students volunteer at Knox County public schools, sparked her passion.
“Here’s this obvious truth that I love being in schools, so I need to pursue it,” she said.
Teach For America also presents opportunities for those who might not want to commit to a teaching profession. Henry Burbank ’16, who majored in political science, is stationed on the Standing Rock Indian Reservation in South Dakota where he teaches reading, writing, math and science to 7th and 8th graders. While Burbank hopes to pursue a career in economic development, national security policy or the private sector, he saw the advantages Teach For America could afford him. “I knew that I wanted to take a job where I was going to learn a lot,” Burbank said.
While Burbank is especially interested in current issues facing Native American communities, he also wanted a position where he could learn a variety of skills. He recalled another Kenyon graduate in Teach For America mentioning to him that being able to manage teenagers is a skill that can be translated into many other aspects of life.
One skill he brought from Kenyon to teaching is his stamina. “This universal Kenyon experience of really slaving away at three in the morning on some project … is necessary and you can push through that,” he said. “You can work yourself that hard and still make it out all right.”
by Elana Spivack '17