What's Next at Teach For America?
By Sarah Ford on March 4, 2014
This week, Co-CEOs Matt Kramer and Elisa Villanueva Beard announced two new initiatives on a live webcast about what's next at TFA. Below is a partial transcript from the webcast. Click here to read the full transcript.
Nine years ago, I was facing one of those “two roads diverged in a wood” moments. When I graduated from college, I had gone to work as a management consultant – I had wanted to work on the challenges facing big organizations. But seven years later, I was overcome by the feeling that America wasn’t moving in the right direction, and I wasn’t holding up my end of some cosmic bargain to contribute.
When Wendy called me that year to ask if I would come work for Teach For America, it felt for a moment like the universe was speaking to me, but it didn’t take long before I was straining to hear it over the din of practical considerations. I was scared. This felt like a really big life decision – a move from a place of comfort and lots of options into a very serious commitment.
But as I considered the idea, I thought back to the years I spent in New York, where my wife Katie was a corps member. She taught middle school social studies in Washington Heights for three years, and she would come home every day and collapse from physical and emotional exhaustion. But then, every day, she’d get back up and start planning and grading. She knew that she and her students were doing something special together, and it fueled her.
I thought back to the projects I worked on for the NYC Board of Education. It was full of incredibly talented and hard-working people who cared about kids, and yet somehow the system normalized the academic struggles of so many children. Somehow, the system just never seemed to change.
But then I also thought back to the pro-bono projects I did for Teach For America. Most of the people I met through those projects and through Katie somehow resisted the urge to call their daily challenges normal. They were angry, and they were hopeful all at once, and they inspired me.
I couldn’t get myself all the way to an unqualified yes, so I took a two year sabbatical from my job to work as Teach For America’s Chief Program Officer, and those two years were enough to make me understand my end of the cosmic bargain. In 2007, I made the decision to jump – to make a lifelong commitment, as all of you have. I’ve never regretted it – not once. Today, I know I am right where I’m supposed to be – here with you – fighting alongside our many partners in this work, for our children and our communities, and for our integrity.
Teach For America is now 24 years old and like any other 24-year-old looking at a changing world, we’ve got some questions, some doubts and even some fears.