After pledging to expand outreach efforts, Teach For America has announced its first veterans recruitment initiative.
“You Served For America, Now Teach For America” aims to bring top military professionals into the country’s highest-need classrooms by partnering with branches of the military and veterans’ organizations. The initiative will be led by Shaun Murphy, a former U.S. Army staff sergeant and 2009 Teach For America alumnus.
“Joining Teach For America is an opportunity for veterans to put their leadership and skills to work in America’s highest-need communities while meeting their desire to continue to serve our nation,” Murphy said in a statement Thursday. “Teach For America is committed to making this path a reality through continued investment in the initiative and prioritization of partnerships across the U.S. Armed Forces community.”
According to Paul Rieckhoff, founder and CEO of nonprofit Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, the program will enable veterans to continue serving their country after coming home from war and provide them with “the well deserved opportunity to transition into meaningful careers in the civilian workforce.”
Currently, Teach For America boasts 10,000 first- and second-year teachers in 46 communities across the U.S. serving 750,000 students. Among them this year are 79 veterans.
The veteran initiative is part of the expansion that TFA's critics say has led the program to stray from its founding ideals of saving poor, struggling schools. TFA's explosion of recruits has pushed a third of its corps members into charters, a move that TFA alumnus Gary Rubinstein told Reuters is a betrayal of its mission.
"When I entered TFA, we wanted to be on the front lines. We wouldn't have accepted a job teaching in a school that was doing well," Rubinstein said. He now teaches math in a high performing New York school.
But TFA founder Wendy Kopp said charter placements allow young teachers to see what can be done in top-performing schools to drive "transformational change" in education.
LaDerrick Collins, a 14-year veteran of the U.S. Army who now teaches fourth grade in Kansas City, said in a statement that his military experience has played an essential role in encouraging students to invest in their own education.
“Soldiers are required to do whatever it takes to get a job done. I’ve found teaching to be no different,” Collins said.