Dyan Rucks recalled her two years teaching in Atlanta as an even
more challenging experience than taking organic chemistry when she
was a student at the University.

Kate Green
Chris Gilbert, a former Teach for America, speaks about his experiences leading a classroom in the Wolverine room of the Michigan Union yesterday.

Rucks and seven other Teach For America alumni participated in a
panel discussion last night at the Michigan Union, answering
questions about their teaching experiences in impoverished

One of the first questions asked to the panel was what was their
impetus in wanting to teach. The members unanimously said that they
wanted to make an impact and help urban children.

Some added that, as children, they enjoyed school while others
were tutoring in college and felt that this would be a great avenue
in pursuing their passion.

But the panelists also noted the obstacles they faced.
“Experiencing young kids was not all fun and play, it was a
job,” said panelist Beth Vaccaro, who taught first grade in
Washington from 1998 to 2000.

The panelists also discussed their classroom experiences. Many
recalled their first day in the classroom and discussed the fear
that both they and the students faced. Almost all of them said that
discipline and time management were big concerns for them.

There was typically one student in each class who never listened
to the teachers and intimidated them, the panelists said.

Rucks suggested that at first it was difficult to control all
the students, but then after interacting with other faculty members
she was able to better handle these situations.

Another aspect discussed was how white teachers felt teaching
mostly minorities. Rucks said some children have trouble relating
with people of different races.

Panelist Diana Blazar, who worked in Phoenix where her students
were mostly Hispanic, said all her students thought she was Mexican
because she spoke Spanish.

“They were devastated when they found out I was not
Mexican,” she said.

But all of the panelists said they felt that even though they
were not of the same race, they were welcomed into their

The panelists also touched on the issue of teaching
certification. They commented on how the new No Child Left Behind
Act has made certification regulations more stringent.

However, the Teach For America program has affiliated
universities through which members, or ‘corps,’ can get
certification. If people are interested in becoming full time
teachers, they can attain a masters degree.

Students at the lecture were excited by this program and felt
that this was an excellent opportunity for them to develop their

“The things I want to dedicate my life to, and all the
campus involvement I have, are similar to this program,” said
LSA senior Shyla Kinhal.

Teach For America was founded in 1990 as a way to recruit
college graduates to serve as teachers in urban or rural areas, and
to improve social justice.

The organization is very selective in whom it recruits and
prefers students who have not studied education. Once accepted, the
corps have to relocate to regional sites around the US and receive
the same salary as would any entry-level teacher.

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