In Shaky Economy, Grads Turn To Teaching

(U-WIRE) ITHACA, N.Y. – Michael Shapiro ’03, plans to go to medical school to become an orthopedic surgeon, but after graduating Cornell University as a biology and society major last May, he put those plans on hold to join two thousand other college graduates in the quest to improve the quality of education in America’s public schools. Teach for America is a national corps of college graduates who commit two years to teaching underprivileged children in urban and rural communities facing socioeconomic challenges. Shapiro has been assigned to teach science to eighth-graders in the South Florida community he grew up in. It is only his first week as a full-time teacher, but so far, he’s keeping his classes under control. “So far, so good,” he said. “It was a little hectic at first, but after teaching summer school as part of my training, I was pretty confident going into school here. I was definitely nervous on the first day, though.” Molly Buckley, Teach for America’s eastern recruitment director, said that ideal candidates possess tremendous critical thinking skills, a record of achievement both academically and in other areas and personal A teaching degree is not required, as corps members get a five-week crash course in teaching during the summer before they begin teaching. Teach for America’s rigorous training program provides members with basic teaching skills and experience and requires them to work with experienced teaching professionals and attend a series of workshops and discussions. Princeton University graduate Wendy Kopp founded the corps in 1989 to help close the achievement gap between children growing up in low-income areas and high-income areas. Since 1990, more than 9,000 college graduates have participated.Each year, graduating Cornell students help make up the corps. Last year, Kopp visited Cornell and addressed over 300 students in Barnes Hall on the goals of Teach for America and on the characteristics recruiters look for. Subsequently, 137 seniors from the Class of 2003 applied. Twenty-eight are currently participating in different communities nationwide.