Caitlin Huston, author of “Teach for America: A two-year crash course” and “TFA Detroit: A $3,000 gamble” was correct when she said that Teach for America corps members have a chance to make an impact in one of the country‘s most disadvantaged school districts. She was right when she mentioned that the district is in financial despair. And, she was right to mention that Detroit schools lack resources.
One fact that she neglected to mention though was the positive effect that Teach for America teachers have on the Detroit schools. In many TFA classrooms across the city, teachers are improving reading and math scores by several grade levels in one year. Teach for America teachers are getting their students involved in activities and community groups across the city to stand up for better opportunities. Moreover, teachers are working incredibly hard with their students to help prepare them to advance on to college and expand their life opportunities.
Huston is right when she mentions that being a teacher is hard work. Yet, as a 2010 graduate from the University‘s Ford School of Public Policy, I can assure you I was prepared to work in this high stakes environment. I gained skills at the University that would allow me to teach my students at a rigorous level, and I gained knowledge that would allow me to hook my students into every lesson. I currently attend the University’s Masters in Education program where I continue to learn valuable skills that allow me to take my students to the next level.
I teach high school civics and economics at Crockett Technical High School in Detroit. My students gain knowledge in economics and government and leave my class understanding what rights they have, how to stand up for what they believe in and how to be productive members of society. This past year, 82 percent of my students left my class proficient in economics. They spoke at Detroit City Council meetings, met with the districts’s Emergency Financial Manager to discuss improvements in their school and wrote letters to our Congressman advocating for a better education. Yes, we lack resources, but our students come determined to learn every day.
Through my TFA experience, I have been challenged, I have grown and I have learned an immense amount about the city of Detroit and its vibrant residents. Detroit is poised to enter a new renaissance, but we must ensure that more of our students are receiving the educational opportunities they deserve. Teach For America is offering one additional source of effective educators, and we are working relentlessly alongside our talented veteran colleagues to make a difference for our kids.
Amanda Canvasser is Master’s student in the School of Education. She is a 2010 Teach For America corps member.