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How Change Happens

At Teach For America, we know lasting change can happen: All children will one day get the excellent education they deserve. Here’s how we see our role in making that a reality.

December 10, 2018

Our Theory of Change

How do we change systems that perpetuate inequity and ensure that all children can learn and achieve to their fullest potential? For Teach For America corps members, it starts when a new teacher steps into the classroom to change students’ lives and be changed in the process. And it continues through a lifetime of advocating for children as part of our diverse alumni network. Brittany Packnett, VP of community alliances at Teach For America, narrates our theory of change.

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Our Theory of Change

Teach For America is a collective force of educators and leaders who are expanding opportunity for all children. We are committed to creating an education system that lets every child reach their potential. But where do we start?   

We start when a new teacher walks into a classroom. Let’s say that teacher is you. You are anxious. This may be the hardest thing you’ve ever done.  

But you know this: Education is perhaps the greatest purpose there is, because everything elseopportunity, progress, freedombegins with education.

You know that every child in that classroom is going to come to you with different needs and gifts and obstacles. And whether you teach 10 or 30 or 120 children, it’s your job to do right by all of your students, every single day, for two full years.

And as you move through those years, you’re learning from your peers and listening to parents. Celebrating milestones. Mourning tragedies. It’s Quinceañeras and Sweet 16s, chorus, after-school sports, and student council elections.

And, with hard work, your students are succeeding academically. They’re developing as learners, leaders, and advocates for themselves in pursuit of their goals.

And at the end of two years you are also very, very different.

Now, you’re wondering how you can continue to make an impact on your students’ lives. You keep teaching, get a graduate degree, take on a role in the administration of your school. You serve on the school board, for the district, then for the state. And your impact grows because you keep drawing on what you learned in that first classroom.

Fast forward over several decades. Look around at the community you became a part of.

Some of you are educators, innovators, state chiefs of education, reimagining schools and school systems to deliver educational excellence for all kids.

Some of you are culture-makers. Leaders in local, state, and federal government, doctors, lawyers, and other professionals who vote, advocate, and organize for more equitable policies.

You form a network that collectively touches every dimension of the educational experience of children in your community and across this country.

We’re not just making a two-year bet. We’re making a lifetime bet on our corps members, on the alumni they become, on the world they’re shaping.

Dr. King once said, “The arc in the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” Our work is to find, develop, and support people who are ready to bend that arc of the moral universe alongside their students.

It starts with a leader who walks into a classroom, bears witness to the potential of all children, and becomes their advocate for life.