Connected for Kids
TFA alumni represent diverse backgrounds, experiences, and career paths. But as lifelong colleagues, partners, and friends, they’re connected across generations and communities to our shared mission. Our more than 65,000 alumni lead and serve in many different ways and in virtually every field. Personally and collectively, alumni work as lifelong advocates for better educational opportunities and outcomes for kids.
Take a look at just a handful of the fields TFA alumni go into, and learn how their experiences in the corps shaped their journeys.
TFA Alumni in Education
After their first two years in the classroom, many TFA alumni decide to stay a lot longer. From a handful of years to a handful of decades, meet some of our alumni who've remained in education as teachers, school leaders, and school system leaders.
Yesenia Castro, School Leader, KIPP SoCal Public Schools
"I did not expect to entirely change my career aspirations, but that’s what TFA does; the corps exposes you to different opportunities, communities, and ultimately challenges your beliefs. TFA also helped me create strong friendships, and I am still very much connected with the corps members from my 2007 class today."
Aaron Lesser, Dean of Instruction, Noble Network of Charter Schools
"The freedom you get from day one in TFA is the best way to grow as a professional and as a person. I was making decisions that had an effect on how much my students learned. That kind of autonomy and responsibility is stronger in teaching than any other field. TFA gave me the tools and support to become a more complete educator over the years."
Shaina Neal, Head of English Program, The Dewey Schools Vietnam
"I thought teaching was going to be a stop-over to doing something else. But my calling is to invest and motivate students. I taught at my TFA school for three years, then easily got into a teaching abroad program because I was TFA. I’ve been able to connect with and help so many people."
Steven Ward, Principal, Prodeo Academy
"I was called to a career of service, and my path to service came through education. If you feel similarly called to serve, I encourage you to live your life in a way that enables as many people to have access to the same opportunities that you have had. Teaching is one way to do this. You will make a difference every single day."
Julie Jackson, President, Uncommon Schools
During her three decades in education, Jackson’s strong leadership and commitment to improving public education have earned her several honors including the Teacher of the Year award in 1998, the Dodge Leadership Award in 2002, and Teach For America’s Peter Jennings Award for Civic Leadership in 2013. She is a Pahara-Aspen Fellow alumni and also served as a Board of Trustee member to the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls. Jackson’s career underscores her professional and personal commitment to ensuring that all children have access to the same quality of education she wants for her own children.
TFA Alumni in Civic Leadership
Time in the classroom gives our alumni proximity to better understand the systemic issues kids and communities face. Get to know alumni using that understanding to design and advocate for policies that serve their students' best interests.
Suzy Wang, Advisor to the Deputy Director of Management, Office of Management and Budget, The White House
"Whatever problem you decide to solve, someone is on the other side of that problem, feeling the impact of your actions. Teaching made that concept real for me, and that belief centers me in my professional journey. It gave me the empathy and courage to create positive change."
Sunny Liu, Principal Fiscal Analyst, New Mexico Legislative Finance Committee
"Being a former teacher has helped me build credibility with policymakers, not only because I learned how to communicate and explain issues in an understandable manner but also because of my perspective from the classroom. Funnily enough, teaching lawmakers about policy issues is pretty similar to describing learning objectives to students."
Kalisha Dessources Figures, Founder & Chief Strategist, KDF Strategies
"No textbook, grad school classroom, or job in Washington can get you the experience you get in the classroom—not just in instruction but in understanding the livelihood of youth, their families, and their communities. I will forever see policy and research in a unique light because of my time as Ms. Dessources."
Garvey Pierre, Foreign Service Officer, US Department of State
"I learned to be patient. To control my emotions. To take time to understand everyone and what moves them. To value certain skills that don’t necessarily fit within the categories we’ve been socialized to appreciate. To push the envelope. To refuse to accept what others might deem unrealistic."
TFA Alumni in Business
Teach For America alumni are bringing the leadership skills gained in the classroom to the boardroom. See alumni who, through careers in business, are advocating for corporate social responsibility and illuminating future pathways for their students.
Nat Natarajan, Investment Banking Director, Barclays
"In the classroom, I got countless opportunities to develop effective professional and personal relationships with teachers and students in a high-stress environment. Also, being a teacher requires skillful data interpretation, relationship management, crisis management, detailed planning, and a number of other abilities that I could carry into banking."
Elaine Dang, Engagement Manager, McKinsey & Company
"I learned that if I invested students in the “why” behind our lessons and held them to the highest expectations, they could overcome any obstacle. This applies to my work today. My students changed how I view the world and what I want to do with my life. They shape everything I do."
OJ Oleka, PhD, Senior Sales Consultant, Conduent
"Teach For America impacted my life by giving me a purpose. Any person with any level of privilege has an opportunity. It is what they do with it that determines whether or not they have utilized that privilege to help others. I have committed the entirety of my life to provide opportunities for low-income families."
Ben Sperling, Senior Associate Brand Manager, M&Ms, Mars, Inc.
"I was changed by the corps experience, both personally and professionally. It really taught me how to have a strong work ethic and how valuable relationships are among coworkers, administrators, and anyone you are working with. When I encountered an issue at the school, I had a whole support team I could go to."
TFA Alumni in Health & Medicine
Using lessons of empathy, patience, and critical thinking, meet TFA alumni who are infusing fresh perspectives into the medical field and advocating for more equitable healthcare as doctors, nurses, pharmacists, therapists, and more.
Dr. Sandrene Cassells, Resident Physician, Children's Hospital of Philadelphia
"When speaking to patients, I know how to scaffold information, such that it is being delivered in digestible pieces. When working with my colleagues, I know how to differentiate tasks to play to each individual’s strengths. Most of all, I have learned to be flexible. Just like with teaching, you often begin your day with a plan, only to have the patient express an entirely different need. Teaching has taught me to adapt to the needs of the people I have taken an oath to serve."
Jamie Bernstein, Psychotherapist, Frey & Associates
"Prior to the corps, I was a college student whose only responsibility was to focus on myself. During the corps, I was responsible for 30 8-year-olds and 9-year-olds who needed my constant attention, and I had to learn to adapt. I also learned the true importance of collaborating with my colleagues; we were able to do a lot more together than I could ever do on my own."
Dr. Lilian Ho, Pediatrician, Alaska Native Medical Center
"After high school, I planned to go into research. During junior year, a public health study abroad program in South Africa showed me that I wanted to help people more directly. Teaching allowed me to do this while pursuing my passion for science, inspiring students and helping to fill a need for science teachers."
Dr. Peter Jenkins, Assistant Professor of Surgery, Indiana University Health
"As a corps member, I chose to pursue a career in medicine because I was moved by how the lives of many of my students were influenced by their chronic health conditions, and as a medical student, I chose to become a trauma surgeon, because traumatic injuries disproportionately impact people who are socioeconomically disadvantaged."
Dr. Anita Saunders, School Psychologist, Indianapolis Public Schools
"My transition to teaching through TFA was an act of racial justice. Although I did not fit the typical demographics of a corps member, I knew, because of my own school experiences, the importance of having teachers who looked like me and shared a cultural background."
Rainey Johnson, Undersea Medical Officer, Naval Medical Research Center
"I will never think of our nation’s education system the same way. To theorize and to experience are two different things. My experience in TFA has—and I anticipate that it always will—influenced the way that I prioritize education and vote."
TFA Alumni in Law
From the classroom to the courtroom, get to know alumni leading a lifetime of impact as lawyers. They are using the lessons learned from their students and the knowledge gained in their law education to be advocates for equity.
Jaquelinne Murillo Figueroa, Removal Defense Immigration Attorney, Polanco Law, P.C.
"Now, as an immigration attorney who is an immigrant as well, I can identify with my clients and their families on a much deeper level. Teach for America helped me learn this skill, and appreciate the ability to identify with my students and now my clients. In short, I learned the importance of serving as a role model for Latino youth and the community overall."
Matthew Aiken, Associate Counsel, The White House
"Professionally, my organizational skills, speaking ability, and leadership skills, all grew exponentially. I led in a number of capacities that I never thought I would, specifically with my 9th graders and as a JV football head coach. The responsibility and ownership of your successes and failures is unparalleled in preparing you for any future leadership experience."
Amy Martoche, Supreme Court Justice, Erie County Supreme Court
Judge Amy Martoche presides over Western New York's Human Trafficking Intervention Hub Court, the first of its kind in the United States. Amy is a pioneer of the "hub court" model, allowing courts to support more victims of human trafficking across the state and provide them with services that reduce recidivism.
Brandi Pikes, Associate, Winston & Strawn
"If you are passionate about helping others and seeing children succeed in school regardless of zip code, apply to Teach For America. Teaching skills can be taught and developed by good coaching teams, especially when you have a heart for public service. With the right heart, pure motives, a willingness to work hard, open communication, and a great support system, you can do anything and be successful at it."
Tom McSorley, General Counsel, NATO - Defence Innovation Accelerator for the North Atlantic (DIANA)
"I was sure I was going to go to law school. But I had gotten advice from virtually everyone not to go straight through because you’ll always regret missing a chance to expand your horizons. I couldn’t see any other opportunity that matched TFA’s offer to actually dive right into making change and, frankly, taking on a ton of responsibility, so I applied."
TFA Alumni Leading Nonprofits
Young people experiencing poverty and/or systemic racism face many challenges. It will take a broad, accountable collective to address them. Meet alumni who are leading nonprofits alongside their former students and their communities.
Johannah Chase, Initiative Lead, Catalytic Communities, The Walton Family Foundation
"It is a transformative experience. I’ve met my best friends through TFA and had incredible professional development opportunities through TFA. But it’s not about you. You should do it because you value what teachers do, and you want to take on the incredible challenge of teaching children with tremendous possibility and change their lives through the power of a good education."
Lakota Vogel, Executive Director, Four Bands Community Fund Inc.
"I learned to take a big goal, break it down into smaller, measurable steps, and how to track progress toward outcomes. Teaching also taught me that no door is closed if you have the desire and are willing to work hard. I also learned that there is foundational work to be done with communities that impacts success in the classroom, which started me on my current career path."
Anjali Malipatil, Executive Director of Philanthropy and DEI, PDT Partners
"I became a stronger planner and learned how to use every resource at my disposal. I learned how to communicate with a vastly different group of individuals—students, other teachers, administrators within my school, parents of students, or fellow TFA corps members. I also learned how to facilitate group conversation and strengthened my public speaking skills."
Daniel Velasco, CEO. Ensemble Learning
"I decided to apply to TFA when my recruiter walked me through some statistics on the barriers I faced in graduating from college on time. With a better understanding of how unlikely my relative success was, I felt compelled to give back and help change a system that disproportionately prevents those with similar life experiences from succeeding."
TFA Alumni in Technology
Alumni who've entered the tech industry bring a wealth of curiosity, creativity, and problem-solving skills from their time in the classroom. See how they are developing technologies that expand opportunities for students.
Maggie Dahn, Associate Project Scientist, Connected Learning Lab
"Many people who move to academia—even former teachers—talk about gaps between practice and theory but don’t do much in their work to remedy those gaps. I hope to offer a teacher’s perspective on issues I’m most interested in learning more about in schools."
Kien Nguyen, Product Manager, Digital Payments, eCapital Corp.
"In the classroom, there are times when students get stuck, and you need to be able to actively problem-solve the situation to get the students back on track. Being able to set clear objectives, communicate effectively, and actively problem-solve are things I do every day when I’m working with engineers or executives."
TFA Alumni Social Entrepreneurs
Inspired by their students, alumni entrepreneurs are launching new ventures that tackle systemic social problems and improve outcomes in schools and communities.
TFA Alumni in Environmental Sustainability
Students growing up today are experiencing the impact of global climate change unlike any generation before. Meet the alumni partnering with communities, schools, and policymakers to build a more sustainable future.
Najee Johnson, Chief of Staff, Ceres Imaging
"Education can change lives, but not in a vacuum. I learned that there’s more to closing the achievement gap than just teaching your subject well. I became more aware of the other issues that impact students on a daily basis, such as health and economic issues. I’m committed to using my experience in the classroom to have a positive impact on people—no matter where I go."
Rashid Williams, School Lead, Blue Zones Project - Jacksonville
"Regardless of content, curriculum, or Common Core, you can't make change if you don’t have the right human capital and real leaders. So, for me, as a leader within this work who is trying to empower young minds daily, I know that I have to stay in it to really make a difference."
Start Your Journey
Where could your path with Teach For America lead? Take the first step on your journey.