Teach for America draws grads

When a friend told 2004 graduate Adam Greenman about the Teach for America program, he was intrigued. But he had no idea it would significantly shape his future.

Greenman, along with 15 other GW students who graduated last year, was accepted into the national teacher recruitment program immediately after receiving his diploma. He is now working in a low-income school district in Camden, N.J.

“When I was accepted to Teach for America, the plan was to fulfill my two-year commitment and then go on to law school. That is still the plan, but it has been altered some,” said Greenman, who now plans to continue teaching during the day and take law classes at night. “Teaching is a great job, and I have had a wonderful experience.”

A social studies teacher, Greenman said he enjoys finding innovative ways to get through to students.

“I try my best to find new ways to teach old history, and the kids have definitely responded in a positive way,” he said.

Greenman came from a university that is very active with Teach for America. Patrick Pontius, the program’s mid-Atlantic recruitment director, said GW students are accepted into the program at a rate six percent higher than the national average.

“George Washington has done very well given its size,” Pontius said. “These numbers are very impressive from a mid-size university. Last year Teach for America had 14,000 applicants and accepted only 2,000.”

University spokesman Eric Solomon attributed the higher acceptance rate to “the quality of programs GW has to offer, and the number of students involved in community service.”

The GW Office of Community Service reported that during the 2003-04 school year, about 2,300 students clocked more than 100,000 hours of volunteering.

One of those students was Jamie Meltzer, a 2004 graduate and Teach for America participant who teaches English in a Brooklyn, N.Y. middle school that has been put on a watch list by No Child Left Behind, President Bush’s education initiative. Throughout her GW career, Meltzer dedicated herself to service.

“I started mentoring with Big Brothers Big Sisters, through the organization’s partnership with the GW chapter of the National Society of Collegiate Scholars, and saw, first hand, the need in our nation’s inner city schools,” she said.

Meltzer said she has been inspired by the work of her students to help improve their school’s standing.

“My eighth graders worked incredibly hard during school, after school and on Saturday mornings to boost their scores and remove this tarnishing mark on the school’s reputation,” she said.

Like Greenman, Meltzer said she has had to reevaluate her career goals after becoming involved with Teach for America.

“I signed up for Teach for America uncertain if I would become a career educator or not, but at this point in time, I can’t imagine waking up and not working for those kids,” she said.

Some GW graduates have gone on to become full-time employees for Teach for America. Monique Ayotte, who taught in the Mississippi Delta after graduating from GW in 1997, is a full-time member of the Teach for America team and directs admissions and assignments.

Teach for America accepts students from all majors, Pontius said, requiring that they hold a bachelor’s degree by the time they enter the program.

“We are looking for people who will have ambitious goals in the two years they teach and then use that leadership in the future to initiate social change,” he said.

For those interested in the program, Teach for America will be holding several information sessions at GW before the Feb. 18 application deadline.

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