Teach for America (TFA), a national teacher corps comprised of college students and recent graduates, is committed to closing the educational gap in low-income communities in the United States, and now a new recruitment of passionate Latino leaders begin to add to these efforts in making student achievement a reality.
Now, more than 600 Latinos make up the 6,000 incoming teacher corps, making it the largest Latino recruitment in the history of the organization. These incoming Latino teachers tripled the rate of Latino corps members five years ago, according to a 2013 study.
“I’m inspired by this incredible group of Latinos who are dedicating their talents and energy to giving all kids an equal chance in life,” TFA co-CEO Elisa Villanueva Beard said in a recent statement.
The high recruitment numbers of Latinos are evidence of the growing partnerships between TFA and nationally recognized Latino organizations, including the Hispanic Heritage Foundation, Hispanic Scholarship Fund, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute, the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities, and New Futuro.
For 25 year old Jason Dones, a recent University of Illinois-Urbana Champaign graduate and current first year TFA corps member, the challenges of the classroom have been tough, but he has remained resolute due to the support and resources TFA provides their educators.
“I’ve come to appreciate a corps mentality, and the idea that you are a part of something bigger,” Dones said. “It’s been nothing but a great experience for me honestly, and I am only a few months in.”
Dones teaches sixth thru eight grade reading and writing at in Chicago’s Southside Pullman Elementary after gaining experience as a teacher in behavioral and academic intervention at local high schools.
Despite criticism levied against TFA that corps members compete with established, tenured teachers, Dones’ interactions with teachers at his school has proved the opposite.
“Everyone comes in with the mentality that it is about our students, and talking about the success of our students,” Dones said. “Any ill will vanishes. See how [we] operate, watch [us] in meetings, and then you’ll stop thinking there’s this riff or a divide and you’ll start contributing.”
Most importantly, Dones’ background helps him to relate to students on a different level. Dones said it’s not about being from an elite school, but about creating a corps of multiple perspectives joined together to tackle problems.
It’s that shared commitment to students TFA fosters that keeps corps members like Dones motivated.
“I would never ever consider to be a teacher in the world. Once I found out the kind of impact I could have just being extra determined and the kind of loved connection I got from the kids I was stuck,” Dones said. “The kids made me.”