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5 Ways Teach For America Helps Equity-Driven Leaders Find Meaningful Careers

5 Ways TFA Helps Equity-Driven Leaders Find Meaningful Careers

See how Teach For America finds, trains, and supports leaders to pursue purposeful careers.

By Alexzandria Cormier-Hill

October 24, 2023

Teaching is an inherently powerful way to make a lasting impression on a child’s life. We all know one teacher who has. That’s why Teach For America helps people form purposeful careers, starting in the classroom, to contribute to a bigger purpose; not just merely surviving a nine-to-five. Our community of nearly 70,000 corps members and alumni would agree. 

To see how we do it, here are five ways TFA welcomes and nurtures leaders like you who aim to authentically, urgently, and innovatively address society’s needs.


1. Mobilize the Right People

Finding people who align with our core values is a top priority not only for us but for the children and communities we serve. Even before you apply to TFA, we find creative ways to unite like-minded change agents who share our beliefs and passion for equity. 

We build relationships with college career centers, student organizations, professors and career fair organizers to identify, cultivate, and bring in people who believe in our mission and vision. So, if you see us on your campus, stop by to say hi! To reach people online, we launched Equity Talks (formerly PopClass), our digital Q&A forum where TFA alums and social justice influencers like Brittany Packnett Cunningham share crucial insights on addressing social issues. 

You can also explore Equity Hub—an online resource to find materials merging social issues with education reform. Dive into a variety of virtual events, grab-and-go resources, and topics ranging from ableism and climate change. It's your toolkit to tackle social causes like the equity-driven leader you are. 

As you get more familiar with our community’s work, you’ll find many ways people are pursuing equitable education for children.

2. Build Community on Shared Beliefs

Students need teachers who believe in their innate greatness. Forward-thinking advocates who see the urgency in making a difference where they are, not just in the future. 

People like Valentina Maza (D.C. Region ‘23) a Venezuelan immigrant who faced a unique set of challenges when she entered the American school system. To reduce those barriers for others like her, Valentina tutored students in college and assisted her professors in researching ways local public schools could create effective methods to help English learners.

“My passion toward social justice is from my experience in Venezuela; my passion toward change came at a really young age. Working as a teacher is a great way to connect with who I am.”

Valentina Maza

D.C. Region Corps Member 2023

TFA teachers, like Valentina, continue their passions by actively tackling issues such as racial justice, mental wellness, and inequitable access to the internet with and for their students.

Authenticity also amplifies teachers’ ability to develop meaningful connections with students and peers. 

Andreas Kidane (LA, ‘21) fosters community through the class pet Charmander, the bearded dragon. Regine McDavid (Memphis ‘21) leverages her Memphis upbringing to connect and engage parents to enhance her student’s learning experiences. Amir Bangura (Idaho ‘22) uses his love for sports to empower his students and peers to think beyond the status quo.

In every corner of the country, you’ll see TFA teachers demonstrating their passions to shape leaders of tomorrow. In doing so, they spark the potential in each student they encounter.

3. Offer Opportunities for Immediate Impact

The opportunity to make a difference is everywhere. When you look at the work that our corps members and fellowship tutors are doing, you can see they’re seizing every opportunity they can find.

Encouraging Action During Your Corps Member Experience

Our coaching, group learning, and professional development opportunities empower corps members to nurture students' academic skills while recognizing the inequities that impact learning—their social, emotional, and mental states. By addressing holistic factors, corps members make a tangible impact and build deep connections with students. 

That’s why nine out of 10 principals who employ Teach For America corps members agree that they have a positive impact on students

A positive impact is:

It's also an empowering presence, as seen in the story of TFA Phoenix corps members Nathan Martinez Rubio and Jessica Verdugo Lopez, who are now teachers. Hear their story below.

Watch Nathan and Jessica’s unique path to the classroom.

A growing number of Teach For America corps members were themselves, years earlier, the students of TFA corps members. Often, the experience of being a student in that teacher's classroom helped spur 'second-generation corps members' to join Teach For America. That’s what happened to two 2022 TFA Phoenix corps members, Nathan Martinez Rubio and Jessica Verdugo Lopez. Here, they share how their former teachers, Jason Cantanese (Phoenix ’11) and Olivia Allpress (Phoenix ’13), respectively, impacted their choice to join the teaching profession.

Tutor to Ignite the Potential in Students and Yourself

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, we recognized a pressing need to address the academic and mental health disparities affecting kids in marginalized communities. In response, we launched Ignite, TFA's national tutoring fellowship.

As an Ignite fellow, you'll work in a paid, hybrid setup for an immediate impact and a strong sense of community. Here, you’ll lead virtual tutoring sessions in the fall and spring and boost students' self-belief with personalized lessons in elementary reading and middle school math.

Ignite isn't just a program; it's your gateway to something bigger—becoming a transformative educator with Teach For America. In fact, 30% of our 2023 Ignite fellows were so inspired that they transitioned into the corps, turning their initial step into a lasting impact in the classroom.

4. Address Equity in Unique Ways

Creating an equitable learning environment is crucial for students' minds, emotions, and aspirations. To build a coalition of justice-minded educators, we're always refining methods to foster equity in and outside the classroom.

Our alumni, many veteran teachers and school leaders, leverage their platform and TFA experience to advance equity for all children. To do this, we train our corps members, through an anti-racist, equity-focused lens. Training sessions explore identity, biases, and the impact your decisions have on students and the community.

You'll learn teaching practices addressing trauma-induced behaviors and the social and emotional factors impacting learning. Adapting the curriculum to be rigorous, responsive, and culturally relevant is also a key part of your training. 

As continued support, an alum receives a free membership to Leadership for Educational Equity, a nonprofit dedicated to inspiring civic leaders to tackle educational equity. Our Black Educators Promise Initiative provides grants for Black teachers, ensuring they thrive in the classroom. Specialized training for rural leaders and awards for civic leadership are also part of our community support. We love novel collaborations, from Esports partnerships to funding social innovation initiatives—unconventional ways help us enhance the education system. 

5. Nurture the Network

Teach For America's support for teachers and education advocates extends beyond the initial two years, as corps members become alumni. From championing kids on Capitol Hill to hosting book clubs, we find a variety of ways to aid our network in advocating for and with students.

To strengthen our coalition, we created the Alumni Hub—a leadership resource featuring a Career Center, corporate and grad school partners, professional development events, and more. Providing these opportunities allows our alumni to grow, connect, and collaborate with each other.

With a 30+ year history, our alumni network of system change leaders works with and supports each other across a variety of sectors. All are in service to promoting equity, particularly for marginalized students.

All are in service of creating equitable opportunities for all students, regardless of race, gender, background, or income. 

If you're seeking an organization that naturally aligns with your values and offers the chance to make a positive impact on lives, Teach For America is paving the way for leaders like you to shape a more inclusive and equitable tomorrow for both yourself and the next generation.

Ready to join our movement?