UT ranks as top alumni contributor to Teach for America

Lizzie Jespersen

UT is now the top contributor of alumni to the Teach for America corps, according to annual rankings released by the organization.

This fall, 73 UT alumni joined 5,900 other recent college and university graduates, beginning their two-year commitment to Teach for America. These students will be teaching in diverse, high-need classrooms across 48 regions of the U.S.  In 2013, 3 percent of the UT’s senior class applied to Teach for America, according to the ranking released on Sept. 3. UT has been ranked among the top contributors for the past six years.

“I think this ranking is something to be very proud of,” said Shawnee Cohn, Teach for America regional communications manager. “We are really seeking out people with strong leadership skills, perseverance in the face of challenges, respect for diversity and a deep commitment for expanding education opportunities. UT students exhibit all of these qualities.”

Teach for America recruits on campus, holding info sessions, presentations and raising awareness of educational inequity. Chrissy Thompson, Plan II and Spanish senior and campus campaign coordinator for Longhorn Teach for America, is involved in promoting the organization’s presence on campus.

“This ranking speaks to the quality of the students,” Thompson said. “They are involved enough in their community that they are candidates for Teach for America. Even before they get out of college, they are trying to serve their communities.”

Courtney Jensen, a UT alumna who taught for the organization in Miami-Dade, Fla. for one year, said she felt like Teach for America reached out to her.

“UT has a really strong recruiting process,” Jensen said. “They meet with you before interviews and they talk to you about their experiences.”

Cohn emphasized Teach for America’s respect for diversity, something UT students already feel exposed to.

“I definitely had the skills as far as the mind-set and exposure to diversity that people who went to smaller schools didn’t have,” Jensen said.

Melissa Dunn, a recent UT graduate and current Teach for America corps member in New Orleans, La., said she also learned to work with very diverse groups of people.

Still, Dunn said she felt like she was unprepared for some of her experiences. 

“It’s been incredible,” said Dunn. “I teach fifth grade. Probably 50 percent of my students are operating on a first grade math level and a first grade reading level.”

History senior Josh Tang looks forward to joining the Teach for America corps next fall. 

“I hope to be able to engage in my own community of Houston and encourage students to become life-long learners,” Tang said.