Time Out to Teach
The middle school in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where Wyatt Cadley, A13, works is so strapped for qualified algebra teachers that students often don’t know which substitute teacher is going to walk through the door. Cadley’s algebra classroom is an oasis of stability. He knows the kids well enough to inquire about their basketball games and family outings before moving on to the lesson, which he picks up exactly where the class left off the previous day.
Cadley is one of 35 Jumbos who joined the Teach for America corps last fall. The corps signs college graduates up for a two-year hitch teaching in low-income communities, where teacher shortages are rampant nationwide. (The Tulsa school system, where Cadley works, started the 2013–14 school year with dozens of vacancies—and that was with the 150-plus teachers supplied by Teach for America.) The corps provides intensive training and mentoring, and helps members pay off student loans or educational expenses. On the job, the members are school employees, receiving the same pay and benefits as other beginning teachers.
Teach for America is a favorite post-college destination for Tufts graduates. In 2013, the university ranked sixth among schools of similar size as a source of recruits, and a total of 241 alumni have taught with the corps during its 23-year history.
It’s the focus on active citizenship, according Nick Diaz, a recruitment manager for the corps. “Tufts students are really aware of issues of justice that are at play in this country and internationally,” he says. “I think they are particularly attracted to the program because they embrace the ‘think globally, act locally’ mantra.” Cadley, in Tulsa, agrees. “I see Tufts values in Teach for America’s values, and vice versa,” he says.
Maura Donahue, A10, who joined Teach for America two years after graduating from Tufts, instilled those altruistic values in her pre-kindergarten pupils in East Harlem. “The vision I wrote for the school year is based on helping my students become engaged in their classroom community and making big concepts small,” she says. “Being considerate, helping, sharing—they’re learning the fundamentals,” she says.
Donahue’s classroom received a major dose of Tufts spirit when Jonathan Tisch, A76, visited. Tisch, who is vice chairman of the Tufts Board of Trustees and naming benefactor of the Jonathan M. Tisch College of Citizenship and Public Service, sponsored Donahue’s teaching position. “Jon visited during our veterinarian make-believe unit,” she says. “He jumped right in and played along with a student who was pretending that her dog, a stuffed animal, had broken its leg.”
This article first appeared in the Fall 2014 issue of Tufts Magazine.