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Payette welcoming TFA summer school program with open arms

This will be the first year that TFA Idaho runs its own summer institute for incoming corps members.

Payette summer school

April 4, 2022

Most educators look forward to summer as a time to refresh and recharge the batteries. But Marci Holcomb, assistant principal at Idaho’s Payette High School, can hardly wait for summer school to start.

That's because this summer, a cadre of new Teach for America corps members will be working alongside Payette teachers to provide some extra, intensive learning time for about 100 middle and high school students who need some extra help to stay on track to graduation.

This will be the first year that TFA Idaho runs its own summer institute for incoming corps members. In the past, new TFA recruits have attended regional summer institutes elsewhere in the U.S. to prepare them for their two year teaching stint.

Summer school will run for 24 days over five weeks, from 8 a.m. to  2 p.m.

Holcomb sees the new partnership between TFA and Payette as symbiotic. The benefits to TFA are evident: Young teachers get experience working with real students and veteran local teachers in a relatively low-stress environment.

But there are several big wins for Payette as well, Holcomb said. First, and most obvious, the additional adults will lower the student-teacher ratio from the usual summer school 15 to 1 to closer to 4 to 1. Smaller groups mean more individualized attention for students who need it most.

But there’s another big benefit for Payette, Holcomb said. Payette, as a rural community, typically gets overlooked when universities are looking to place student teachers. The partnership with TFA means that the district’s top teachers will get an opportunity to hone their mentoring skills.

“I’ve been very selective about the teachers I allow to participate in the process, and am choosing the very best teachers,” she said. “We have great teachers here and so this is an opportunity for them to practice those mentoring skill sets in a different environment.”

Payette teachers will also get to work with TFA’s coaches, another added benefit, Holcomb said.

“I’m very selfish. My kids are going to benefit, my teachers are going to benefit. That's why I was super excited about this But obviously it is a great deal for TFA as well,” she said.

The partnership between Payette and TFA grew out of an established relationship. TFA has sent several corps members to Payette schools over the years. Initially, Holcomb said, most of those corps members taught special education classes. But their roles have expanded into a variety of subject areas, she said.

“It’s really been a great partnership for us as a district,” she said.

Another way TFA will benefit from the new summer program is that new corps members and coaches will be able to stay in the school and use classrooms for training after the summer school day is done.

Holcomb said she and others in the school community have been working with local businesses to provide perks to corps members who will be in the area for the summer. Discounted gym memberships, use of the local golf course, access to Treasure Valley Community College facilities are all in the works she said.

“The community is really embracing the fact that we have this opportunity,” Holcomb said. “We get these great, excited, young, energetic teachers with great pedigrees coming in to work with our students, and our kids are going to benefit from that.”

Marci Holcomb