The Peter Jennings Award for Civic Leadership ($10,000 prize) is presented annually to a Teach For America alumnus/a whose work has led to far-reaching systemic change in the last year. Nominees should demonstrate significant and measurable impact in addressing an issue of critical importance to achieving educational equity and should embody the core values of Teach For America.
This award is named as a tribute to the late journalist and ABC News anchor Peter Jennings whose dedication to expanding educational opportunity has done so much to advance our cause.
Teach For America alumni, corps members, and colleagues are invited to nominate candidates for consideration. The deadline for nominations is February 8, 2013.
The recipient(s) will be selected by a 15-member committee, and the award will be presented in May at Teach For America’s annual benefit dinner in New York City.
Kira Orange Jones (S. Louisiana '00), Rhonda Kalifey-Aluise (Houston '92) and Sarah Newell Usdin (S. Louisiana '92) were awarded the 2012 Peter Jennings Award for their collective work to transform public educational opportunities in New Orleans following the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. Jones, executive director of Teach For America in the region, expanded the size of the corps to 400 teachers, up from 100, and the alumni base to more than 700. Collectively, Teach For America corps members and alumni reach half of the students in the city. She was also elected in 2011 to the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education. Kalifey-Aluise is the executive director of KIPP New Orleans, overseeing some of the top-performing open-enrollment schools in the city. The KIPP network of 12 schools plans to serve about 5,300 students—13% of the city's student population. Usdin, CEO and founder of New Schools for New Orleans, led a multi-million dollar effort to launch dozens of high-performing charter schools and fill them with excellent teachers and school leaders. Together, the trio has helped the city make extraordinary progress. Today, nearly 80% of New Orleans students attend charter schools, up from 5% in 2005, and the city-state achievement gap has been cut in half.
Colorado State Senator Michael Johnston (Mississippi Delta Corps ’97) was awarded the Peter Jennings Award for his work writing the landmark bill S.B. 191 (PDF), which offered a comprehensive overhaul of the state’s teacher hiring, evaluation, tenure, and professional development models. Johnston has since helped lawmakers in 11 states write and implement similar legislation, and is now working to pass a bill qualifying undocumented immigrant children for in-state tuition at Colorado’s public universities.
Tim Daly (Baltimore Corps ’99) won the 2010 Peter Jennings Award for his work as president of The New Teacher Project (TNTP). During that time, TNTP released the influential report The Widget Effect, which influenced legislation at the federal, state, and local levels while bringing teacher evaluation to the forefront of the national debate. Since receiving the award, Daly oversaw the publication of the widely read analysis Teacher Evaluation 2.0.
Tom Torkelson, JoAnn Gama (both Rio Grande Valley Corps ’97), and Jeremy Beard (Los Angeles Corps ’95) were honored in 2009 for their work with IDEA Public Schools, which has achieved extraordinary academic results with low-income rural students in the Rio Grande Valley. Torkelson and Gama founded the network, while Beard led its high-performing Donna campus. Since 2009, Torkelson has continued to serve as CEO of IDEA, Gama was named to President Obama’s Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for Hispanics while acting as IDEA’s COO, and Beard served as the Houston Independent School District’s Apollo 20 school improvement officer before joining the national nonprofit Blueprint Schools Network.
Cami Anderson (Los Angeles Corps ’93) received the 2008 Peter Jennings Award for creating a culture of achievement and accountability in New York City’s historically low-performing District 79, which serves the city’s alternative education students. After five years leading District 79, she was named superintendent of Newark Public Schools, the largest urban school district in New Jersey.
Michelle Rhee (Baltimore Corps '92) received the inaugural Peter Jennings Award for her work as founder, CEO, and president of The New Teacher Project (TNTP), which recruits high-quality teachers to work in low-income urban school districts. Since receiving the award, Rhee served for four years as chancellor of Washington D.C. Public Schools, and in 2010, founded the national education advocacy group StudentsFirst.