Amber Woodbury

I grew up in south-central Wisconsin in the city of Madison—and off of the reservation. The Sokaogon Chippewa Community resided just north of me, but I had to cultivate my own identity as an American Indian in a town with very few people who identified as Native. As I learned how to relate to my culture and identity without being assimilated to life on the reservation, I also began to learn more about how Natives have been impacted in the education system.

The President's announcement of expanded eligibility of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) to more young adults was top of mind here at Pass the Chalk today. Obama’s landmark immigration plan has direct implications for the United States education system. Check out the other stories that got us talking this week.

As we celebrate our veterans this week – and every week - I’m so grateful to the men and women who have and do serve in our armed forces. I’m also grateful to their families. I know the personal struggle and sacrifice that military families face, and while I’m fortunate to know my husband is relatively safe, Facetime just doesn’t replace having him home with us.

We moved to Jacksonville, Florida three years ago when my husband Omar, or Aviation Ordnanceman Airman Omar Palmer (so proud of him - this year he was recognized as Airman of the Year in Patrol Squadron (VP) 10!), was transferred here from D.C.  Omar is now on his third deployment in as many years. In that time I’ve been so fortunate to not just find a job and home in our new city, but to also find a community and an extended family.

Yesterday, we had the chance to sit down with five college students, along with a staff member for United Students Against Sweatshops. Those of you who follow this blog closely know we’ve been engaging with this group for a few months now, and may have read about it here and here. The conversation offered a welcome chance to connect face to face, and to share more about the difficult, inspiring, essential work of our corps members, alumni, their students, and communities.

We first heard from USAS last spring, when they issued a press release to announce their “TFA Truth Tour” – an effort to dissuade students at their colleges from joining our work. This fall, it re-emerged with an administrator-facing twist, making the case to college and university presidents that cutting ties with our organization would do the most good for low-income students in underserved schools. As our 10,000+ corps members and 11,000 alumni teachers went back to school, the campaign stood in strange contrast to their tremendous grit, humility, diversity, and commitment to equity. And so, we were eager to talk.

Last night, we got to spend some time together to try to bridge this gap. Our conversation confirmed that our two organizations have a lot of common beliefs. All of us feel that as long as skin color and family income continue to determine a child’s access to a high quality public education, our nation isn’t living into its promise. We agree that the burdens of poverty make the work of public education much, much more difficult. We share the conviction that standing up for what you believe in matters a great deal.

Jason Mangone and MacKenzie Moritz

From 1919 to 1953, November 11th was known as Armistice Day; so this week marks the sixtieth anniversary of what we now know as Veterans Day. When President Eisenhower issued a proclamation announcing the change to “Veterans Day” in October 1954, it was more than a nominal one: he called for a remembrance, but he also issued a challenge:

 “On that day let us solemnly remember the sacrifices of all those who fought so valiantly....and let us reconsecrate ourselves to the task of promoting an enduring peace...In order to insure proper and widespread observance of this anniversary, all veterans, all veterans’ organizations, and the entire citizenry will wish to join hands in the common purpose.”

So, Veterans Day is really about three things: it is about solemn remembrance for all of our soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines; it is about actively creating a world where peace might endure; and it is about common purpose as citizens.

Kevin Corrinet

When we practice behaviors which contribute to a healthy lifestyle, like exercising regularly and eating nutritious foods, we feel better. It isn’t rocket science – in fact, it’s pretty commonsensical.

From bringing a constructive mindset to a work meeting, to having more energy during family outings – being physically and mentally sound positively impacts multiple areas of our lives, and provides the foundation for achievement.

Unfortunately, too many of our students aren’t experiencing the benefits that come with being healthy in all aspects. Nearly one in three children in America is overweight or obese. The numbers are even higher in African American and Hispanic communities, where nearly 40 percent of children are overweight or obese. Low-income students are less likely to have recess and participate in organized sports, and are more likely to live in neighborhoods without physical activity resources like parks and bike paths – making them more vulnerable to be overweight or obese.

The classroom was in disarray. Sheets of paper overflowed from shelves. Spilled paint, glue, and glitter had conspired over the years to stain much of the carpet. The storage closet was in the worst condition of all: a  sea of art supplies littered the floor and walls, rendering it impossible to reach anything beyond arm’s length. Help was needed.

Pass The Chalk Editorial Team

As we honor the traditions and contributions of Native communities and leaders during Native Heritage Month, we encourage you to read a blog written by Teach For America’s Co-CEO, Matt Kramer. The blog discusses the continuing use of Native mascots and the way this practice undermines the heritage of thousands of American Indian students and the work of educators that promote academic success and cultural identity to ensure that all Native students have access to an excellent education.  Recently, the effort to eliminate these mascots started to gain fresh momentum, and it’s important that we stand together with others in calling for change.

Dr. Joseph Wilson and Kara DiGiacomo

Organizations from all sectors, teachers from all communities, and even politicians on both sides of the aisle agree that an excellent science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education opens doors of opportunity for all students. Great teachers give students the skills to be competitive in the STEM-sector jobs which will increase 17 percent in the next four years – but more importantly, they impart the passion to explore, discover, and create upon our next generation of leaders. The simple truth is that we need more great STEM teachers in our nation’s classrooms.

Teach For America and the Biogen Idec Foundation are committed to ensuring all students have access to high-quality STEM experiences. We are thrilled to announce a five-year collaboration to provide recruitment, training, and professional development opportunities to STEM corps members, as well as high-quality STEM educational opportunities for students in under-resourced communities.


About Us

We believe education is the most pressing issue facing our nation. On Pass the Chalk, we'll share our takes on the issues of the day, join the online conversation about education, and tell stories from classrooms, schools, and communities around the nation.

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The thoughts, ideas, and opinions expressed on Pass the Chalk are the responsibility of individual bloggers. Unless explicitly stated, blog posts do not represent the views of Teach For America as an organization. 

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