Teach For America goes east

By Jessica Taylor

Graduating seniors interested in teaching in high-need Kentucky schools may soon get their chance.

Teach For America announced last week that it will now serve at least three Eastern Kentucky counties, bringing 30 certified teachers in all subject areas to the region annually for the next several years.

Teach For America is an organization which provides trained teachers to underfunded urban and rural school districts, showing significant achievement gaps in comparison to other districts in the state, according to the Teach For America website. They currently sponsor 41 programs in 35 states, plus the District of Columbia.

The new expansion area in Kentucky includes Floyd, Knox and Martin counties, with a large organizational office in Hazard, said Allison Flannery, a recruiter for Teach for America and an English senior.

More counties may be added in the future, she said.

The region was selected because of interest from state legislators and school districts who were concerned about low standardized test scores and low college enrollments. Because Teach For America is a nonprofit organization, they work with private donors and local businesses to secure funding for their member, she said.

According to a press release, the decision to expand comes on the heels of state legislation passed last year which allows Teach For America participants to receive temporary alternative teacher certification in Kentucky.

Students like senior Michael Delfino said the route to alternative certification is what initially attracted them.

“I always wanted to teach, but wasn’t sure about pursuing a traditional route to certification,” Delfino said. “When I found out I could get alternative certification to teach math and computer science in high schools, I decided to go for it.”

Participants must already possess a degree and complete a teacher-readiness exam to receive certification.

Part of the program’s effectiveness is due to their acceptance of students from any major, Flannery said.

She said Teach For America participants can specify subject area, preference and region in their application. After their commitment period, if they want to continue to teach, participants are able pursue full certification through an accredited university program, Flannery said.

Chase Stamper, a modern and classical languages senior, said the experience of helping an impoverished school is what drew him to the program.

He said he liked the thought of making a difference.

And Stamper is not alone in that thought.

Teach For America reported nearly 48,000 applications in 2011, with 600 coming from Kentucky.

Between 25 and 30 applicants were accepted from the UK this year, Flannery said.

The deadline for the 2011 application has already passed, but the 2012 application will be available soon.

Students interested in information about the program can find out more at www.teachforamerica.org.