Teach For America Rio Grande Valley has worked hand in hand for nearly 30 years with partners and advocates throughout our region to create opportunities for children in our most underserved communities.
Teach For America Rio Grande Valley recruits, trains, and supports a growing movement of leaders dedicated to expanding educational opportunity across the region. Alongside the communities they serve, RGV alumni and corps members have played an integral role in supporting the academic gains made by students in the Rio Grande Valley since 1991.
Making Progress in the Rio Grande Valley
Rio Grande Valley has made significant progress toward educational equity. Over the last decade, graduation rates in the RGV have been climbing steadily, and for the class of 2017, the graduation rate reached an all-time high of 90 percent. The region has also seen gains in AP/Dual Credit completion (23% and 30% respectively) and college readiness (35 percent, up from 22 percent). These statistics show that students in the Rio Grande Valley are being prepared increasingly well for the rigors of higher education and the workplace.
While there is still much to be done, Teach For America RGV’s network of over 240 corps members and alumni are among the countless educators, families, and community leaders who have pushed to raise the bar for educational excellence in the community since 1991. And we remain committed to this work.
Addressing Rio Grande Valley Student Needs
Teach For America Rio Grande Valley is placing teachers with diverse talents in vital but difficult-to-staff areas, including dual-enrollment, STEM, and dual language instruction.
32% of RGV corps members are teaching a STEM subject, a vital field of innovation and one where individuals from low-income communities are vastly underrepresented.
2 RGV corps members are certified as dual enrollment instructors. The Rio Grande Valley has the highest concentration of early college high schools in the state of Texas. Students can enroll in dual enrollment college level courses and simultaneously progress towards high school graduation and earn college credits. Our Teach For America partner school districts are constantly seeking qualified educators with a master’s degree. Teach For America RGV helping to fill that need by recruiting promising educators with a master's degree in subject areas such as English, mathematics, the sciences, or the social sciences.
14% of RGV corps members teach in bilingual/dual language classrooms. The majority of elementary schools in the Rio Grande Valley serve a high percentage of English Language Learners. Educators implement a variety of instructional models with the dual language model, building towards biliteracy in English and Spanish, recently growing in usage based on its strong research based results of success. At the secondary level, a growing number of districts are implementing options where students can continue to take courses in English and Spanish to earn a seal of biliteracy on their high school diploma.
Fostering Educational Excellence in RGV Schools
Rio Grande Valley’s progress in education wouldn’t have been possible without public schools that challenge the status quo. As of 2019, all school districts in the Rio Grande Valley are rated as an A or B on the state accountability system, making the Rio Grande Valley the only region in Texas to achieve such an accomplishment. Learn about the Teach For America Rio Grande Valleypartner schools and districts that are proving what’s possible for students:
Science Academy of South Texas
The Science Academy of South Texas was recognized as one of Teach For America’s 2018-2019 Selected Schools To Learn From for its strong evidence of building students' personal and academic strengths through rigorous, application based curriculum. The Science Academy of South Texas has garnered numerous awards for its academic achievements such as the prestigious National Blue Ribbon High School (2010) award, and it continues to receive recognition as an exemplary high school in the state of Texas.
School Leadership: Dr. Irma Castillo
IDEA Public Schools
IDEA Public Schools, which was co-founded by alumni Tom Torkelson (Rio Grande Valley ‘97) and JoAnn Gama (Rio Grande Valley ‘97), serves nearly 53,000 students in 96 schools across five Texas regions and Southern Louisiana and maintains a legacy of matriculating nearly 100% of its graduates to college. IDEA Public Schools was named the winner of the Broad Prize for Public Charter Schools in 2016. 60 TFA leaders work at IDEA including seven principals, four systems leaders, and 26 teachers.
District Leadership: Tom Torkelson and JoAnn Gama
Raul Yzaguirre Middle School
The Pharr-San Juan-Alamo Independent School District has developed programs which allow students the option to graduate high school with a seal of bilteracy on their diploma. Dual language programs at the secondary level teach a mixture of content courses in English and Spanish to fully develop academic proficiency in two languages. One Teach For America corps member at this school teaches dual language science.
School Leadership: Dr. Jose C. Montelongo
Rio Grande Valley’s Holdsworth Center Partner Districts
The Rio Grande Valley’s Pharr-San Juan-Alamo Independent School District and the Harlingen Consolidated Independent School District have both partnered with the prestigious Holdsworth Center, an education development center for district and campus leadership that seeks to improve the quality of K-12 public education for all Texas students by supporting and developing educational leadership. Administrators from both these Teach For America partner districts have joined some of the initial cohorts of the Holdsworth Center to grow as excellent leaders in education.
2019 Corps Member Statistics
Teach For America Rio Grande Valley is dedicated to finding and training teachers who reflect the identities of the students we served. Our 2019-2020 school year Rio Grande Valley corps are:
people of color
from a low-income background
first-generation college students
taught by a TFA corps member
Creating Lasting Change Through Alumni Leadership
Teach For America Rio Grande Valley alumni are leading both inside and outside the classroom, as superintendent and school leaders, policy and advocacy leaders, social entrepreneurs, and elected officials, all driven to create opportunity for all children in the city.
School Systems Leaders
Working Directly in Education
United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas
Originally from Rio Grande Valley, Fernando joined Teach For America in Houston after graduating from Yale University. After his two year commitment, he attended the University of Texas Law School and began practicing law in Dallas and internationally. Today, Fernando serves as a judge on the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas in Brownsville.
Rio Grande Valley '97
Co-Founder and Superintendent
IDEA Public Schools
As Co-Founder and Superintendent of IDEA Public Schools, JoAnn served as part of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics and was honored at the Texas Governor’s Volunteer Awards as a “Champion of Education.”
Rio Grande Valley '04
School Board Trustee
In 2016, Alicia was elected to the board of trustees for Donna Independent School District, her original Teach For America placement district. In this role Alicia helped support the process of hiring a new superintendent and has improved the district to achieve a B rating in the state accountability system. Alicia also serves on Teach For America national staff.
Teach For America Rio Grande Valley in the News
Teach For America Rio Grande Valley’s impact has been recognized in a number of media publications, including:
Clap in for teachers
August 23, 2019
Teach For America CEO: Despite progress, we must remain unsatisfied
Rio Grande Guardian
February 3, 2019
TFA educator at IDEA challenges her students with higher standards
July 1, 2019
Roma educator wants to close gap for underserved communities
January 8, 2019
Teach For America educator at PSJA Memorial always wanted to return to the RGV
September 18, 2019
Teach for America Receives $64,000 Grant
RG Vision Magazine
August 29, 2019