Ask any Teach For America alum and she or he could probably tell you a variation of Christina (Jones) Coleman’s and Brooke (Foster) Max’s story—how they formed a lifelong friendship through the crucible experience of teaching in the corps together.
The two became inseparable from the moment they met at their summer teacher training in Houston in 2003, and they’ve continued to support each other over the past 15 years as they moved to different cities, developed their careers, and started families. Brooke encouraged Christina to join a nonprofit board focused on civics and reading, which led her to start tutoring. Christina urged Brooke to pursue a doctorate in math education and Brooke now works as a mathematics teacher educator. The two were even roommates at TFA’s 25th Anniversary Summit in 2016.
“We decided we needed each other,” Brooke says. Christina agrees: “I had spent so much time with Brooke during Teach For America and she knew so much about me that when something really big was happening, she was one of the few people I could call who would understand my perspective.”
Corps members have built on the relationships they forged during their TFA experience to launch schools, nonprofits, socially conscious businesses, and civic initiatives that have profoundly affected communities all across the country. And it’s not just your immediate colleagues and friends who will become your lifelong brain trust, support system, and professional network. By joining TFA, you will join a network of 56,000 leaders who share your values, convictions, and determination, and are eager to join you and support you in collectively working toward the day when all kids have access to an excellent education.
The TFA network offers you endless benefits—formal and informal, professional and personal.
Being part of the TFA network means you’ll have access to great leaders who are always searching for talent, and to talent who will staff your future ventures. You can develop yourself as a professional through regional TFA events and fellowships and through national opportunities, including TFA’s Capitol Hill Fellows Program, Rural School Leadership Academy, and the Social Innovation Award. You’ll even have your own exclusive platform, TFA Connect BETA, where you can connect with other corps members and alumni, learn together, and find high-impact job opportunities around the country.
Emily Masengale (St. Louis ’06) found the right mix of formal and informal opportunities within the TFA Indianapolis network, including alumni mentors and professional development like the TFA-Indianapolis Principal Fellows program. These helped her to found Christel House DORS, an innovative school that gives adult students the opportunity to return to school and earn their high school diploma.
This atmosphere of support and innovation within the network has had a tremendous impact on the Indianapolis educational landscape.
“We have learned how to capitalize on each others’ strengths, helping each other grow,” said Lindsey Roache, a 2008 Indianapolis alum and assistant principal at Christel House DORS. “We have created a network that provides support, mentoring opportunities, thought partners, job opportunities, and countless other things. Collectively, we have created a space where innovation and growth are welcomed and encouraged.”
And then there are the personal—and often unexpected—benefits of joining the TFA network, which sometimes includes finding your soul mate. Miguel (Dallas–Fort Worth ’11) and Brenda Ortega (Dallas–Fort Worth ’14), met by chance at a party thrown by a mutual friend who was also a Dallas–Fort Worth corps member. Miguel proposed to Brenda near the Trinity river in Fort Worth, while a mariachi band played in the background. More than 30 Teach For America alumni friends joined Brenda and Miguel on their wedding day.
The passion that brought them to the corps also brings them together as a couple. “Teaching kids is what keeps us moving forward,” Brenda said. “It helps to know I have someone who continues to guide and support that.”
This network wants to help you succeed—and sets you up to make an impact.
The TFA network offers a system of nets and ladders—a community that will support you with ongoing mentorship and coaching and help accelerate your career path inside and outside of the classroom.
“They show that you can survive your first and second year of teaching,” Jonathan Tiongco, founding Principal of the Alliance Marine-Innovation & Technology school in the greater Los Angeles area, said about the TFA network. “Not only can you survive, you can thrive in the profession, move up the career ladder, and do exceptional work. They show what’s possible.”
In many regions, such as Los Angeles, corps members are intentionally placed in schools where alumni are working, because of the close mentorship and peer-to-peer support that alumni offer. This strategy of “clustering” corps members together with alumni and veteran teachers not only helps new corps members succeed in the classroom, it also creates a unit of change that can help a school accelerate its impact on student achievement.