The fourth annual “I Still Teach For America” dinner was held last week to celebrate and inspire the more than 70 Teach For America – Jacksonville teachers who continue to serve in classrooms throughout the community.
The event is part of the week-long celebration, Teach For America Week, in which TFA-Jacksonville hosts a week’s worth of activities to build engagement and awareness of TFA’s mission of ensuring educational excellence and equity for all students. A cornerstone event of Teach For America Week, the dinner held at Sawgrass Country Club brings educators, administrators, alumni and students together. Programming included Alumni Teachers of the Year being awarded for their service, remarks from students thanking their teachers for the impact they’ve had on their lives, gift presentations, and words from school administrators on the contributions of TFA teachers.
Teach For America works in partnership with communities to expand educational opportunity for children facing the challenges of poverty. Founded in 1990, Teach For America recruits and develops a diverse corps of outstanding college graduates and professionals to make an initial two-year commitment to teach in high-need schools and become lifelong leaders in the effort to end educational inequity.
The young teachers serve as full-fledged faculty members at their schools, receiving the normal school district salary and benefits as well as a modest AmeriCorps “education voucher” (which can be used to pay for credentialing courses, cover previous student loans or fund further education during or after the two-year commitment). They do not automatically join a union, but are not prohibited from doing so. They may join union strikes even if they are not union members, at the cost of losing pay.
As of early 2015, Teach For America reported 88% of its first year teachers return for a second year. The organization also reported that more than 11,000 of its alumni were still teaching and that 65% of its alumni were working full-time in roles impacting education or low-income communities. This includes more than 900 school leaders, 100 elected union leaders, and 250 schools system leaders.