Local Student Pays It Forward As a Teacher

Having benefited from the comparative luxury of the public schools in Laguna Beach, native Lindsay McKenna, a 2007 Laguna Beach High School graduate and a 2011 graduate of the University of Southern California, will spend the next two years teaching at a public school in an underserved community in Los Angeles for the nonprofit group Teach For America.

Each year, Teach For America recruits a national corps of top college graduates to teach for two years in high-needs districts, furthering the organization’s goal of educational equity by transplanting top-flight graduates into classrooms in the poorest performing districts.

Acceptance to the Teach For America corps gives recent college graduates hands-on teaching experience, typically at a pay rate and benefits equivalent to an entry-level position in the district where they are assigned, even though they are not yet credentialed instructors. And the deal is made sweeter by the fact that Teach For America members are eligible to receive loan and interest payment forbearance on qualified student loans, as well as an education award of $4,725 at the end of each year of service.

Corps recruits attend a five-week program of intensive training prior to their assignments and are then monitored by program directors throughout their term, during which they also complete coursework toward full certification and a master’s degree. In choosing locations for recruits, Teach For America looks for the existence of state-approved alternate routes to teacher certification so that their members’ time will count towards post-graduate work. Two out of three corps alumni are working full-time in the field of education, almost half of them as classroom teachers.

It’s a sweet enough deal that Teach For America received almost 48,000 applications for their 2011 corps, of which only 5,200 were accepted. This year’s corps members earned an average undergraduate GPA of 3.6, and every one of them held leadership positions while in college. Attempts to reach McKenna for comment were unsuccessful.

Funding for Teach For American is predominately comprised of contributions from local business, foundations and organizations, and individuals in the regions where members teach, with about 25 percent coming from national sources, including the federal government.

 Corps members are paid directly by the school districts for which they work. For more information, visit www.teachforamerica.org.


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