Justin Tandingan

This July 17–19 in Oakland, California, Teach For America will host its first-ever Asian American & Pacific Islander (AAPI) Corps Member Summit. This convening will be a unique opportunity for more than 100 second-year AAPI teachers and staff members to come together and reflect on their own identities—as individuals, teachers, and community members.

Each year, thousands of American students miss out on financial aid money because they never complete the FAFSA. To help fix this issue, researchers have presented findings on an effective way to get students to complete this application: texting! Studies conducted at the University of Virginia show that students who received text message reminders were significantly more likely to complete the application than those who did not. 

Compared to students in many other countries, American students demonstrate an average understanding of important financial literacy concepts. Experts worry that this lack of financial awareness will produce disastrous results for students as they get older, and need to think about saving for retirement.

Christina Luccio

Recently, Christina Luccio surprised the kids she taught in pre-K and kindergarten at their fifth-grade graduation. We were there to capture the tears, hugs, and memories shared between teacher, students, and parents. Below is the letter Christina wrote to her students in celebration of the day.

Dear PK-103 and K-111,

One of the most rewarding aspects of being a teacher is having the privilege of watching your students learn and grow over the course of the year. Back in 2007, you began pre-K as three- and four-year-olds. Some of you had never been apart from your families before, some of you were accustomed to being the only child at home, and some of you spoke no English. You were cautious about the novel environment, but at the same time excited and curious to see what it had to offer.

Over the course of that first year together, as well as the second when I had the pleasure of moving up with you collectively to kindergarten, you blossomed as scholars. Letters and sounds soon became words that invited you into the world of reading and writing, giving you strong voices to express yourselves. Shapes, numbers, and colors soon revealed patterns that helped explain your everyday lives. But the growth didn’t stop there.

Andrea Pursley

(Photo credit: Pete)

On July 17th from 3:30pm-4:30pm EDT at the Teach For America Educators Conference in Las Vegas, TFA co-CEOs Elisa Villanueva Beard and Matt Kramer will host a Town Hall to reflect on where TFA is as a community, as well as discussing the opportunities and challenges on which the organization is focusing. While the Town Hall’s live audience will include more than 1,000 people, it will also be available as a live stream for all corps members, alumni, staff, and community members who want to join—and ask questions.

The Town Hall kicks off an annual two-day conference that is designed to support educators who work directly in schools and school systems. This fall, TFA anticipates that more than 11,000 alumni will serve as pre-K-12 classroom teachers, nearly 900 will serve as school principals, and about 220 alumni will work in school systems leadership. Approximately two-thirds of TFA’s 37,000 alumni work in education more broadly, including in positions like instructional coaches and assistant principals, as well as in roles in higher education and in non-profit organizations working directly with schools.

Shaun Murphy

(Photo credit: Mike Mozart)

On July 4, we come together to remember the legacy of our forefathers, those who founded a nation based on the ideals of freedom and equality for all. Delaware, where I served as a Teach For America ’09 corps member, was the first colony to become a state under such principles, laying the groundwork for visionary democratic beliefs to foster in our new country. This Independence Day, I’m prompted to reflect on how I’ve worked to help provide all of Delaware’s students with the opportunities promised to them by our country.

I remember vividly the first time I came to Wilmington, Delaware in July 2009. The welcome sign off Interstate 95 read “A Place to Be Somebody.” For a standard city-limit marker, this sign sure threw me for a loop. What kind of “somebody” was I going to be?

I wanted to be somebody who opened doors of opportunity for others, and made the whole stronger. This is something I learned during my eight years of service in the U.S. Army, where every action I took was to help build a better life for our citizens.

In the fall of 2014, white students will no longer be the majority in the nation’s public school system. Combined, there will be more Latino, black, Asian, and Native American public school students than white students for the first time in the nation’s history. 

Colleges have long faced scrutiny for seemingly lenient processes when dealing with rape cases on campus, and now the government is stepping in to protect the welfare of the nation’s students. The Obama administration released the names of the 65 colleges currently under investigation for their handling of sexual-assault cases. 

Katie Castellano Minaya

This week, New York City welcomes its 2014 corps to my beloved city, a place where I call home and am raising my two daughters. Ten years ago, I was in the incoming corps members’ shoes, and didn’t yet know that my life would be forever changed by my students and fellow teachers in the South Bronx—and by one student in particular, Oscar.

On Saturday, I attended Oscar’s high school graduation alongside his family. I was reminded that my commitment to my students and my community was in no way a two-year gig. I am a teacher for life, and celebrating Oscar’s tremendous accomplishment reminded me that the impact I can have on my students—and their impact on me—goes beyond a single school year.

Dear Oscar,

Do you remember that first day of school in September 2004? I do. I remember meeting my 28 new second- and third-graders from the Hunts Point area of the South Bronx. You met me, a brand-new Teach For America teacher, Miss Castellano. You probably saw right through me: excited and scared to death, but bent on providing a bilingual education for my students, one that never happened for my parents and grandparents who immigrated from Italy and Colombia.

This isn’t a choice.

This isn’t a phase,

And it’s not a mistake.

I’m not any different than I was before,

Except maybe a little less burdened. 

- Christine, age 14, Poet Warrior

This spring, Christine Vela shared a powerful poem with the world—in it, she comes out and breaks the silence surrounding her sexuality. This PRIDE month, we must stand with Christine. We must stand with all of our LGBTQ students.

Though the world gets more accepting every day, students still face a great deal of harassment and discrimination for their sexual orientation or gender identity.

For Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, there is no debate when it comes to affirmative action. The Court’s most media-friendly judge spoke to ABC News about why she is unrelenting in her support of this polarizing institution. 

A national education advocacy group is going after America’s college-dropout factories, calling for the government to cut federal funding to schools that do not meet minimum performance standards.

Pass The Chalk Editorial Team

In April, 14-year-old Christine Vela, a student in Teach For America’s Poet Warriors Project, shared a poem called “Breaking the Silence.” It included these lines:

With one heart-wrenching throwback of this closet,

I’ll say the words I’ve been meaning to say

My whole life.

I’m lesbian.

Christine recorded a video reading of her poem for the Poet Warriors Project, and this act of bravery garnered national attention (a BuzzFeed staff writer, who highlighted the video in an LGBTQ poetry roundup, said, “Seriously, I have nothing more to say—just watch.”) This June, as TFA celebrates Pride Month, Poet Warriors founder Emily Southerton asked Christine about social justice, SAFE classrooms, and more.

Emily Southerton: With your poem, you broke the silence and shared your own personal story. What role does personal storytelling play in social justice movements?

Christine Vela: Personal storytelling, especially in social justice movements, plays the role of illustrating day-to-day oppression in a relatable way. This concept is manifested in a variety of art forms, and is especially prominent in spoken-word poetry. I believe it somewhat relates to the concept of “show, don’t tell,” as well, however simple it may seem. One of my favorite slam poets, Guante, has just begun a series on the art of spoken word poetry. In his very first video in the series, he explains the difference between showing and telling, and to summarize this concept, I’ll simply use a quote he says in his video: “Don’t write a poem about war. Write a poem about what it’s like to stand in your brother’s empty bedroom.” In the former example, it is easy to dismiss the concept in question, whereas in the latter, it is more emotionally insightful, playing upon the audience’s feelings in a way that they can better understand. The concrete imagery of a brother’s empty bedroom makes the concept of war more real to one who has never experienced it. It is the authenticity of one’s personal narrative—the good, the bad, and the ugly—that advances movements, and not simply the discussion of ideas in a way that leaves out the humanity of the people in question, though the discussion of those ideas is certainly important as well.

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