New legislation approved by members of the Virginia General Assembly would allow programs, such as Teach for America, to be present in Virginia, said Deanna Haurie, coordinator of campus recruitment for Teach for America.
“The legislation allows for people with alternative certification to be able to teach in Virginia schools,” Haurie said. “Historically, Virginia has only allowed traditionally licensed teachers to teach in public schools.”
Allowing alternative certification would mean that people who don’t have formal teaching licensure or formal education degrees can take courses and use other means of credentials to show that they are highly effective teachers, she said.
The Teach for America program trains members through summer institutes in or near each member’s specific teaching locations, senior Taylor Michals said. Members attend these institutes for about six weeks to review and prepare for the location, she said.
Although the legislation has been approved, there are no guarantees that Teach for America will establish a Virginia region, Haurie said. She said she had talked with some students from the University of Richmond who had been interested in the program but would like to stay in Richmond after they graduate. If a Virginia region of Teach for America were created, Richmond would likely be a location that teachers could be sent to, she said. And this could attract some applicants who had not previously considered the program because they wanted to stay in the area.
“Living in Richmond, there is a huge discrepancy between higher-income neighborhoods and the lower-income neighborhoods,” Haurie said. “The teachers in the schools [in Richmond] that are there already are doing an incredible job, but it’s always great to get new, more diverse talent to help bring new ideas and help bring energy and passion.”
Michals got involved with Teach for America because she believed in its mission to help impoverished children get a valuable education, she said. She will be returning to New Orleans, her hometown, to teach at an elementary school, she said.
“In New Orleans, it’s very difficult to get a good education unless you’re able to afford a good education,” she said. “I don’t think that your socio-economic status should dictate what kind of education you get, so I just want to give students he opportunity to have the type of education that I received.”
Michals went to the Virginia General Assembly in January and spoke in support of the bill to allow alternative licensure programs to come to Virginia, she said.
Teach for America recruited heavily at Richmond because a lot of students were interested in social justice and in using their education to make a difference, Haurie said.
Anna Todaro, assistant director for career services, said she didn’t think having Teach for America come to Virginia locations would have a great effect on the number of students who applied to the program. Students apply to the program because they are interested in being in the classroom and impacting education and less because of the location where they will go, she said. But Todaro agreed that if there were some students particularly interested in positively impacting Virginia locations, there would be new options for them.
One benefit to having the program come to Virginia would be that current Teach for America members would be closer to campus, Todaro said. These members could then act as resources to Richmond students who were interested in applying, she said.
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