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Colleen Gillespie Embarks on Two Year Adventure with Teach For America
Physics Teacher
Oakland, CA
Undergraduate Institution: Davidson College, Davidson, NC

Teach For America

Colleen GillispieWant to make a difference in the education system? Not sure you want to go to graduate school yet? Think you can teach physics better than your high school teacher? Apply for Teach For America (TFA)!

My name is Colleen Gillespie, and I'll be teaching physics through TFA in Oakland, CA next year. I'm a physics major at Davidson College in Davidson, North Carolina. I've done a lot of research, but have since decided that it's not really for me. When I learned about TFA, it sounded like the perfect opportunity.

Teach For America's mission is "to build a movement to eliminate educational inequity by enlisting our nation's most promising future leaders in this effort." To close the achievement gap, the quality of teachers in low-income schools must improve. There is an especially great need for good science and math teachers, and TFA actively recruits science and math majors to apply.

As a teacher through Teach For America, you commit to teaching in a low-income community for two years. There are about 25 sites across the country, both urban and rural, and TFA tries to place you in one of your "highly preferred" locations. There are many benefits to being a teacher with TFA. First, you do not need education certification to teach. You will learn all you need to know in their intense summer institute. Also, TFA provides a great support staff to get corps members through the entire process. Finally, while you will be working to affect social change, you also are paid a regular teacher's salary.

To apply for Teach For America, you first submit an online application that includes your resume and essays (there are four deadlines each year). You don't need letters of recommendation or your transcript until your interview, which comes later in the process.

Interview day was initially intimidating, but the TFA interviewers made the process enjoyable. The day starts with each applicant doing a five minute sample teaching lesson. Physics students can do a fun lesson with an impressive demonstration, and this really stands out! Next, the applicants split into groups and discuss the articles they were given to read ahead of time. Finally, the applicants complete a short written assignment dealing with issues in teaching. And last but not least, each applicant has a 30-minute interview. The day is long, but the interviewers are very friendly, and the day was actually fun. You find out if you're accepted in about a month, and then your teaching assignment shortly after that.

I know teaching will be extremely challenging but well worth it. I cannot wait to begin my two year adventure, and I encourage you all to consider it as well.

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