Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Elisa Villanueva Beard Thoughts from the Listening Tour

An article by the new co-CEO of TFA, Elisa Villanueva Beard:

Four months ago, Matt Kramer and I were jointly honored with the task of leading Teach For America forward. Our first decision was not to act but to stop and listen. We started by hearing reflections from the parents and students we work with, as well as our corps members, alumni, staff, critics and partners from across the country.

What we heard and experienced affirmed why Teach For America remains a positive and critical force in public education and in the broader social justice movement: thoughtful, talented and committed teachers; inspired and engaged students developing the academic, social, and leadership skills needed to become the next generation of leaders; dedicated and insightful veteran educators leading classrooms, schools, and districts; determined and involved parents placing their trust and hope in classroom teachers; and an incredibly diverse Teach For America community bound together by the deep belief that every child can and should be prepared for a fulfilling career and active citizenship.

Today, the Teach For America community is over 40,000 strong -- 11,000 current corps members, 32,000 alumni, and staff. More than 80 percent of our alumni are working toward social justice -- working with low-income communities, in the education field, or both. Approximately one-third of our alumni are teachers; one-third serve in other education roles; and about 15 percent work elsewhere in the movement for social justice. Nearly 40 percent of our corps members identify as people of color or grew up in low-income communities.
Not surprisingly in a community as large and diverse as ours, we hold a wide range of opinions not only about public education and what it will take to reach educational equity in our country, but also about Teach For America in particular. We get all kinds of feedback -- both complimentary and critical -- from our corps members, fellow educators, and alumni. We welcome this. Every forward-thinking organization needs a mechanism for listening, learning, responding, and evolving.

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