Teach for America kicks off training in Tulsa
BY ANDREA EGER World Staff Writer
Tuesday, June 12, 2012
6/12/12 at 7:21 AM
Tulsa welcomed 770 new summer residents Monday with the kickoff of the city's first Teach for America Summer Institute.
The arrival of 650 newly recruited teachers and 120 national staff members means Tulsa Public Schools was able to overhaul its summer school program and quadruple its student enrollment to 5,300 students.
"I don't think there has ever been a community in the history of Teach for America that has rolled out the red carpet more significantly than this one has," said Wendy Kopp, the organization's founder and chief executive officer, thanking school district and civic leaders. "I never dreamed that we would ever be in Tulsa or that we would have one of our fastest-growing corps in Oklahoma or that we would have a summer institute here."
The New York-based national nonprofit organization recruits and trains new college graduates from across the country to become effective teachers under the close supervision of veteran educators. In exchange, graduates commit to teaching for two years in low-income urban or rural public schools.
Tulsa's TFA Summer Institute will be training all new corps members who will be assigned in the fall to schools in Tulsa and Oklahoma City, as well as in Kansas City; Charlotte, N.C.; and the Miami, Fla., area.
This summer, they and other Teach for America employees from across the country will live in student housing at the University of Tulsa and teach at Tulsa Public Schools as part of their intensive, 16-hour training days.
When summer school opens next week, the school district will be introducing an all-new curriculum based on state and national standards, and students can be taught according to their individual learning needs.
"You are joining the front line in the fight against one of the greatest social injustices of our time - educational inequity," Kopp said at a Monday evening ceremony at Rogers Early College Junior High and High School. "What are you going to do this year that is going to make a truly meaningful difference for your students? With every step of the way, this is going to be hard - harder than you can imagine right now. ... This is hard work, but it will be worth it."
Teach for America corps members will serve as lead teachers for much of the summer school day, but for one hour every day, as many as six teachers will be in each classroom working with groups of three to four students each.
Some 150 top-notch teachers from Tulsa Public Schools and the Community Action Project have been hired to mentor the trainees.
Laura Brewer, senior managing director for the Tulsa TFA Summer Institute, encouraged the new recruits to learn from their mentors, to develop relationships with their students and their families, and, above all, to strive for excellence.
"We don't have students here to make your training more relevant. You are here to ensure their summer school is relevant, so please don't forget that," she said.
Tulsa Superintendent Keith Ballard told the 650 new Teach for America corps members that classroom teachers are his heroes.
He thanked the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation and the George Kaiser Family Foundation for being integral to the selection of Tulsa for a Teach for America partnership three years ago and, now, as the smallest city among nine to host a summer institute.
A recent East Central High School graduate received a standing ovation after thanking her teacher, TFA Tulsa corps member Akira Cespedes Perez, for helping her learn English.
"I used to sit in the back of the classroom and hope no one noticed me," said Betzy Ramirez. "Now I am the one who starts conversations in English with anyone."
Original Print Headline: Teach for America converges on Tulsa
Andrea Eger 918-581-8470
Isamara Berrios (left), Stephanie Granado and Rose Weintraub, 2012 Teach for America corps members, arrive Sunday at the University of Tulsa, where they will live in student housing during a Teach for America Summer Institute. MIKE SIMONS / Tulsa World
Wendy Kopp: The founder and CEO of Teach for America says Tulsa has "rolled out the red carpet" for the organization.