Clicking around on TFANet, I found a discussion on the 20th Anniversary Summit community titled “What were YOU doing 20 years ago?” Whoa whoa whoa. I did a complete double-take. Now, of course, I know this is the 20th year of Teach For America’s existence. I registered for the summit; I’ve been on staff; I’ve read Wendy Kopp’s book. I know. But… I guess it never actually sunk in that Teach For America is two decades old.
What was I doing 20 years ago? Newly immigrated to the U.S., I was probably learning how to speak English. I was three. That means I will meet people at the summit who have been part of Teach For America essentially as long as I have been alive, not to mention others who have been working for educational equity for even longer. I can’t describe how much that kind of passion inspires me.
I wonder about the students of those corps members from the early ’90s. Where are they now? They must be older than I am. How are they doing? I know that there are corps members who were inspired to join Teach For America because they were taught by corps members. I remember one person in my corps who answered “because I was taught by a TFA teacher” when asked the standard “Why Teach For America?” question during induction. There’s just such beauty in that ripple effect. These stories speak volumes about the kind of people who are drawn to this movement: they (we?!) are people who can motivate others, who can move others, who can change lives. It isn’t hard to imagine (if there are not already) “third-generation,” “fourth-generation,” “fifth-generation” corps members.
I want my students to become advocates for themselves and their communities! I’m not saying that they should all apply for Teach For America in seven years (though it would make my heart sing with pride), but I do want them to be fighting for the quality education they, their siblings, their children deserve in their own ways. The question is “How do I make that happen?”