Taylor Burke

Taylor Burke has been on staff at Teach For America  for more than three years, and currently works as the copywriter and editor on the Regional Marketing team. She has lived in seven TFA regions and is looking forward to moving with her husband to a, still unknown, number eight soon.

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A few weekends ago, I stayed in with some couldn’t-put-down reading. The characters were dynamic—they came from big cities and small towns; they overcame hardships and achieved great success; they included students, scientists, mothers, and mentors.

I only wished they would come to life.

But wait, they would! In just a few short days I would meet these fascinating individuals—candidates for our 2014 corps who I would interview in-person as the final step of their application process. Tomorrow, thousands of applicants from our first and second application deadlines will find out whether or not they have been accepted into our 2014 corps.

Each year hundreds of TFA staff members—after many hours of training—depart their day-to-day jobs to interview thousands of corps applicants. It’s one of my favorite and most stressful times of the year.

The stress comes from the immense responsibility. My decisions affect the kids each candidate could teach. I’m looking for applicants who will set and strive for big goals with their students; balance that drive with compassion and empathy to form lasting relationships in their new communities; and always remember that the challenges they face as new teachers pale in comparison to the challenges their students face growing up in poverty. 

My decisions also affect the future of those in the room. One thing all the candidates have in common is that they care. They want to make a difference. I’m helping to decide if our program is the place to channel that devotion. And that’s where the fun comes in as well. I love hearing their stories and learning about their accomplishments. Their passion invigorates my daily work.  

I’ve sat on the other side of this too. My TFA interviewer seemed mysterious (and a little scary). What was she typing so vigorously? What did she think of me? Could she really get to know me in one day?

Now that the tables have turned, I want to peel back the curtain on some of that mystery.

Talk about the power of knowledge: a five-year-old boy who was with his father when he suffered an aneurysm and stroke was able to call for help then identify their location by using his ABC’s. He spelled the name of the store they had pulled in front of when his father started to get sick. Help arrived in time. Watch his adorable interview here.


Picture from Wikimedia Commons

Five links that made us think this week.

April is National Poetry Month and TFA alum, Emily Southerton is asking students across the country to talk about what poetry means to them as part of her Poet Warriors Project. Take a moment to read through their inspiring work, and if you are a teacher, encourage your students to submit their own thoughts to the blog.

Put away your #2 pencils and your highlighters! Last week, we talked about proposed new technology that will grade essays electronically. This week, an article in the New York Times discussed how some professors are using technology and e-books to determine if students are doing their reading homework or not. Technology can be both useful and overused in the classroom, but the innovation with which people are thinking about education is exciting.

Photo from Wikimedia Commons

Five links that made us think this week.

I attended a large public high school where our school’s police officer was always on hand. I rarely had any personal interaction with him beyond the passing “hello” in the hallways, but this article got me thinking about the role he played in my high school experience and how officers across the country can be used in positive (or negative) ways around the schools they protect. 

If you have any doubt as to the ability of our nation’s children to be the STEM innovators and problem solvers of the future this article will put it to rest. The projects these Intel Science Talent Search finalists are working on are truly exceptional. Across the country, kids have the ideas and the potential to do what these remarkable students are doing. We need to provide the education and resources to help them grow. 

At Teach For America, we’re constantly thinking about kids, but if you’re like me, we often forget it’s OK to act like one too. This week I’m remembering to take moment to destress with some kid-inspired activities or one of these relaxation techniques from around the globe.

Photo by Effeietsanders via Wikimedia Commons

Five links that made us think this week.

I love the Academy Awards—so much, in fact, that I host an annual party complete with ballots and movie-themed food. This year’s Oscars should prove to be interesting as several of the best picture nominees have been deemed controversial for their historical accuracy, depictions of race, and political leanings. Two of them have sparked a particular debate on the portrayal of slavery in the films—the lack thereof in Lincoln, and the extreme violence in Django Unchained.

Speaking of extreme violence, I recently attended a fitness boot camp where the instructor had us play dodge ball as our cardio warm-up. It took me right back to my elementary school gymnasium and I practically hid in the corner while my dad, who came with me, targeted me for his hardest throws. This article in the New York Times regarding the infusion of academics into physical education class, also got me thinking about gym. Is it better to squeeze academic learning time into every available minute of the school day? Or to give kids a break to just be kids?

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

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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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