Voices from the Idaho EdNews Community

Education career path started with TFA

I am a teacher, but five years ago I never imagined I would have entered the classroom. During my senior year of college I received an e-mail from a Teach For America (TFA) recruiter who wanted to talk to me about the program. I agreed to meet, and it was a decision that changed my life.

I received an outstanding education at Boise’s public schools. My college professors set me up for success. However, from my first conversation with TFA, I began to realize that so many children, including many in my home state, do not have this privilege.

This meeting lit a fire in my heart. I made it my mission to do everything I could to help all students get the excellent education they deserved.

But unfortunately, I was a senior in college and it was too late to go through traditional teacher preparation. TFA offered a unique opportunity to get into the classroom while also working on my teaching credentials.

After graduation I moved to Phoenix, eager to begin teacher training. I was taught how to draft lesson objectives, backwards-plan a lesson and assess student achievement. Under the mentorship of veteran teachers, I was also given the privilege, to work with a group of students who were taking summer school.

I received constant observation and feedback. I learned quickly through hands-on training and after a competitive interview process that enabled me to share insight into my teaching style and pedagogical methods, I gained even more confidence. By the fall, I had my own classroom teaching Biology in the rural community of Buckeye, Arizona.

As any teacher will tell you, that first year was a roller coaster. One thing that my non-TFA colleagues noticed was different about my experience with TFA was the outpouring of support throughout my first and second year teaching from instructional coaches, additional learning communities, and continued professional development. Many people observed my classroom and offered feedback, including my mentor teacher at my school, my program director from TFA, and my state TFA advisor. Their feedback was an integral part of my success in my first years teaching and inspires me today.

At the end of my two-year commitment I could have stayed at my placement school, but I wanted to move back to Idaho and work with the students in my home state.

I felt confident transitioning to teaching in a new state because of my solid foundation. My new administrators and colleagues at Caldwell High School are impressed with the skills I learned from TFA.

Like many teachers in this state, I am absolutely committed to being an excellent teacher. I am committed to strengthening education for students in Idaho. I am no better or worse than teachers who come from traditional teacher prep programs.

Teach For America opened my eyes to how amazing it is to be a teacher. This is an opportunity I may have passed up had they had not recruited me. Now I know I’m not going anywhere: I am staying in education.



Madeline DiGrazia

Madeline DiGrazia is a Teach For America alumna now teaching at Caldwell High School.

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