Connecting the Dots: Teach for America

Graphic and title adapted from Clark Fox Family Foundation.

A long-time friend of mine is Canadian-born but lives in the U.S. I had been friends with him for quite some time before I realized his Canadian nationality. When I connected the dots, I must have been giving him that I-had-no-idea look on my face, because he sarcastically added, “Yeah. It’s true. And we walk amongst you everywhere undetected.” As Executive Director for Teach for America, I get that look a lot, too, when the lightbulb goes off and folks across Kansas City realize how interconnected and central Teach For America corps members and alumni are to the education ecosystem here in Kansas City.

At Teach For America (TFA), we believe that all children in this nation – regardless of their zip code, their skin color, or the amount of money their parents have in their bank account – should have access to an excellent education; however, we know this simply is not the case today … yet. We also believe that one of the most important factors to closing the opportunity gap is the teacher. As a result, since TFA launched our Kansas City office in 2008, we’ve continuously recruited top college graduates and high-performing professionals to commit to a minimum of two years teaching in low-income schools. As the largest AmeriCorps program in the state of Missouri, we proudly welcome a resounding force of teachers to schools across the metro every year where they teach the full gamut of subjects and levels – from preschool to high school chemistry and everything in between.

To really see the breakthroughs our students deserve, it is not enough just to bring teachers to Kansas City, but to find ways to retain, support and continuously develop them for the long term. United by the belief that no shiny building, no hip technology solutions, no groundbreaking curriculum will lead to the types of student-level gains we hope to see in the absence of a strong human capital pipeline, there has emerged a deep sense of collaboration between like-minded human capital development programs, and this synergy is paying off. In recent years, Teach For America Kansas City has doubled down on supporting and retaining more and more of our talented, passionate alumni, and I’m pleased to say that today 70 percent of graduating Teach For America Kansas City teachers are staying in the classroom beyond their initial two-year commitment. Furthermore, the most common profession of our alumni is teaching. We are proud of all of our Teach For America teachers, including three this past school year who were named Teacher of the Year by their respective school or district –Milton Achelpohl at Genesis School, Kymbr Logan at Satchel Paige Elementary and alum Alyssa Brzuchalski of Raytown Quality Schools.

Of those who choose not to stay in the classroom after their corps experience, most continue to impact the educational ecosystem in significant ways via other roles. They are school leaders like TFA alum Hannah Lofthus at the Kauffman School, who was recently awarded the prestigious Ryan Award for leading her school to outstanding results for lower-income students. They are social entrepreneurs like TFA alum Katie Boody at The Lean Lab, who is working to galvanize community and cultivate innovation in our educational system. They are policymakers like TFA alum Lauren Arthur, Missouri State Representative from District 18, who informs education policy from her experience in the classroom. They are TFA alum Aaron North, Vice President of Education at the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. They are TFA alum Charles King and a bevy of staff and master teachers at the Kansas City Teacher Residency Program. They lead and staff education non-profits like PREP-KC, Leading Educators, City Year, the United Way, Friends of University Academy, and The Literacy Lab.

This is truly an exciting time for Kansas City, with so many bright spots in nearly every corner and at the center of it all Teach For America corps members and alumni are working alongside students, families and communities. So the next time you have that shocked “aha” moment, and think “They’re TFA?” hopefully you’ll hear me saying, “Yeah. It’s true. And they walk amongst you everywhere undetected.”

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Chris Rosson

A first generation college student, Rosson graduated summa cum laude from both William Jewell College (BA in Economics & Business Administration) and Johns Hopkins University (MA in International Economics & International Relations), completed honors tutorials at Oxford University, and was named 1 of the top 20 college students in the nation as a member of USA Today’s All-Academic First Team (2006). Prior to joining TFA staff, Chris held numerous professional roles in the public and private sectors.