The admittance process for Teach for America program has been described by The New York Times as competitively on par with being accepted to an Ivy League Graduate program. Seven students from the Classes of 2012 were recently accepted into Teach for America, proving that they have the passion and academic strength to be included among the nation’s best.
Following graduation, Lucia Berliner ’12, Tim Carter ’12, Kevin Kent ’12, Kristen Kush ’12, Charlotte Lysohir ’12, Alaria Pizzo ’11, MAT ’12 and Gideon Porter ’12 will venture across the country to public schools affected by high poverty rates and in need of educators.
“It is a true mark of distinction to have more than half a dozen HWS students selected to serve in these elite ranks, speaking to the power of a liberal arts education. This is a testament to their hard work and dedication as well as to the Colleges’ focus on nurturing 21st century leaders who will positively impact our world,” says President Mark D. Gearan. “I join with the campus in congratulating them on this well-deserved accomplishment.”
Berliner, a psychology and media and society double major, will teach in a pre-k through eighth grade classroom in the Delta Region of Arkansas and Mississippi. Berliner was first introduced to Teach for America’s programs last summer, and was immediately drawn to the organization’s purpose and mission. “I’ve always spent my summers working with young children,” explains Berliner. “Although I had never planned to go into education, it seemed a really great way to make a real impact straight out of college.”
Not only does Berliner hope to take away a broader understanding of the country’s school system, but she also hopes to glean more about the different cultures within the U.S. “I’m really looking forward to gaining an intimate understanding of a new part of our country–the lives that people live, the challenges that they face, hobbies, dreams, landscapes, the ecosystem – all of it!”
Carter, an English and philosophy double major, has been placed as a high school English teacher in Tulsa, Okla. When he graduates from the Colleges in May, Carter, who is also a member of the HWS Teacher Certification program, will be a certified NY State High School English teacher. Faced with numerous prospects following graduation, Carter saw Teach for America as an obvious career option.
“Teach for America was an opportunity that looked to be both very challenging and personally rewarding,” Carter says. “Teaching is who I am. I will approach each challenge with a teacher’s perspective.” In addition to his excitement to submerse himself in instructing English, Carter looks forward to exploring the Midwest and Tulsa’s vibrant arts culture. Following his two- year commitment, Carter intends to pursue a master’s and doctorate degree in poetry.
Kent, an urban studies major, will head to the Rio Grande Valley in Texas where he will teach secondary special education. Kent’s past experience working as a tennis instructor and volunteering with Project Eye to Eye has helped him find his passion for teaching children and seeing them improve and grow.
In addition to exploring teaching as a career option, the program will give him a view of the education system from a perspective different from his urban studies courses. “I am very interested in going into educational policy so in doing Teach for America I am hoping to gain some “real world” experience before I try to tackle educational issues on a larger scale,” says Kent. “I am looking forward to dramatically improving the educational experience in my students’ lives and working with their families to reach ambitious goals.”
Kush, a chemistry major, will instruct students in the greater Newark, N.J. area as a high school chemistry teacher. For Kush, the decision to join Teach for America was a natural bonding of her love of chemistry and her passion for helping others to learn and grow.
A chemistry Teaching Fellow and regular volunteer at Neighbors Night at St. Peter’s Church in Geneva, Kush has found a surprising source of inspiration in teaching, and hopes to eventually instruct chemistry at a collegiate level.
“I have heard so many stories from Teach for America alums who have said that they learned just as much from their students as they believe they taught,” says Kush. “I want to get my students really excited for chemistry – and then see them succeed in the subject. I hope to know what it means to make a difference in the lives of students facing the achievement gap.”
Lysohir, an urban studies and sociology double major, will teach early childhood education in the D.C. Metro area, working primarily with students from Pre-K through the third grade. “At HWS, I have studied and learned much about social inequity and crisis; eventually I started to realize a pattern or cycle emerging – many, if not all, of these social ills seemed to stem from a lack of education. I decided I had to be a part of the solution.”
Last summer, Lysohir worked with several Teach for America alums at the Harlem Village Academies in New York City. Part of her duties as an intern and assistant coordinator allowed her to speak with her supervisors about their experiences. “Once I realized what an integral part of their professional and personal lives Teach for America had been, I was convinced it was a mission I wanted to be part of.
Lysohir hopes to pursue graduate school for urban education policy or curriculum studies after her service with Teach for America, exploring sex education and the arts – two of the most underutilized and underfunded subjects in public schools today.
Pizzo is headed to teach in New York City. Pizzo earned her bachelor’s in English, and has stayed on at the Colleges to earn her New York State certification for Secondary English Education.
“After many years of observing master teachers and learning about teaching I cannot wait to finally be in the classroom,” says Pizzo. “I hope to walk away from Teach for America feeling confident that I forever impacted the lives of my students in some way, to help them explore their abilities in new and meaningful ways.”
Porter, a political science major, has been placed in Kansas City, where he will teach in a special education setting. “I have a strong belief that one’s zip code should not dictate the quality of education our students across the country receive,” explains Porter. “Education plays a fundamental role in our society and I believe the disparities that exist are morally wrong. Teach for America says loudly: ‘we can change this.’ It is a great organization that I really wanted to be part of.”