Teach for America recruits learn with summer school students in Tulsa
BY ANDREA EGER World Staff Writer
Thursday, June 21, 2012
6/21/12 at 7:18 AM
Starting this year, summer school is educational for students and teachers.
A record-breaking 5,000-plus students are benefiting from the extra time on task because summer school is being taught by nearly 650 new Teach for America recruits who are training to become teachers.
"My goal is to believe in my students and to help motivate them and give them a desire to learn," said Ruben Chiza, who is teaching fourth grade at Lewis and Clark Elementary School and who will remain in Tulsa to teach middle school social studies come August.
The inaugural year of Tulsa's Teach for America Summer Institute is not only breaking local summer school enrollment records, but also it is helping the national nonprofit organization reach a new milestone - having more than 10,000 corps members teaching in high-need classrooms this fall.
TFA recruits teachers for schools in 36 states and the District of Columbia, with many of those training in Tulsa soon to depart for schools in Oklahoma City, Kansas City, Charlotte, N.C., and Miami, Fla.
Laura Brewer, senior managing director for the Tulsa TFA Summer Institute, said "corps members" are focusing on reading in Tulsa because that's what school leaders here asked them to do.
That means every child takes a diagnostic test at the start of summer school so that they can get individualized help. With two or three TFA corps members for every classroom, plus national TFA staff members and local, veteran educators there to assist, students spend the first hour of every day in small groups doing word study and guided reading activities.
Summer school is only a half day and goes by quickly because students eat breakfast and lunch.
"One student asked, 'Are we leaving already? That was short!' " Chiza said, laughing.
But the dog days of summer are seemingly endless for the teachers in training.
At 6:45 a.m., they board yellow school buses at the University of Tulsa, where they're staying in the dorms, and head out to their school sites. They don't leave when students do; they leave after their own classes and meetings end at 4:15 p.m. A couple of evenings a week, they also attend evening training sessions at TU.
One afternoon this week, Erin Davis, a TFA veteran who teaches in Tulsa, went over sight words and books and online resources teachers should use for Academic Intervention Time - the name for that first hour of intensive help students get each day.
"This time is so crucial for them to be able to move up to an independent reading level, which is our goal this summer," Davis said. "This time is so important for them."
TFA corps members are trained to rely on data and set aggressive, individualized goals for each child.
In just four weeks, their goal is to help their summer school students advance to mastery of their current reading level, meaning reading without struggling or making mistakes and being able to answer questions to demonstrate comprehension, said Sandra Hinderliter, site director at Lewis and Clark.
Davis told her charges, "Meet your students at their level. That's something you will do (wherever you go)."
For Chiza, the long days and immense challenges are exactly what he signed up for.
He readily shares his story of his parents leaving their jobs and home in the Democratic Republic of the Congo 10 years ago so that he and his siblings could obtain a good education in the United States.
"The No. 1 thing for my family is education," he said. "I had teachers who inspired me, and I want to do the same thing for someone else. I think it is a civic duty for every African-American male, in my opinion, to at least give some time to education either at the beginning of their career or when they retire."
In addition to serving as a strong, male role model for kids, Chiza wants to share his love of politics, history, civic engagement and current affairs.
"I want to develop and train some global leaders and responsible citizens," he said. "Even in the fourth grade, you can be involved, as young as you are."
About Teach for America
Teach for America
now recruits teachers for
schools in 36 states and
the District of Columbia.
The new corps members
who are training in
Tulsa this summer will
be assigned in the fall
to schools in Tulsa and
Oklahoma City, as well as
in Kansas City; Charlotte,
N.C.; and Miami, Fla.
corps for 2012-13 has an
average college grade
point average of 3.55 and
includes alumni of more
than 600 colleges and
universities across the
country. And 23 percent
are graduate students or
professionals from a wide
range of backgrounds,
including veterans of the
U.S. Armed Forces, financial
staffers, consultants and
participants in other
Original Print Headline: School for student, teacher
Andrea Eger 918-581-8470
Teach for America teacher Geoffrey Martell reads to students at summer school at Lewis and Clark Elementary this week. STEPHEN PINGRY/Tulsa World
Teach for America teacher Kaitlyn Spronz talks with student Mason Hopper at summer school at Lewis and Clark Elementary this week. STEPHEN PINGRY/Tulsa World
Teach for America teacher Charles Vachapittack talks with students Simon Villavencio and Rafael Macedo at summer school at Lewis and Clark Elementary this week. STEPHEN PINGRY/Tulsa World