Teacher of the Year discusses educational inequality at GW

The 2005 National Teacher of the Year told students that inequalities within the nation’s public school system can be mitigated by students volunteering to teach.

Jason Kamras spoke to students Tuesday night in the Jack Morton Auditorium at an event hosted by GW’s Teach for America chapter. The national organization provides college graduates with two-year teaching positions in public schools located in low-income neighborhoods across the country.

The National Teacher of the Year is a title presented to one educator annually by the U.S. president.

“We, as a country, don’t give equal access to that one thing that will help get children out of poverty, and that is an excellent education,” Kamras said during his speech.

Kamras, 32, teaches math at the John PhilipSouza School in Southeast D.C. and is the first teacher from the District ever to be recognized as a Teacher of the Year. Kamras grew up in Sacramento, Calif., and joined Teach for America soon after graduating from Princeton University in 1995.

His half-hour speech consisted mostly of anecdotes from his teaching career and was in part a recruiting session to encourage students to join the national organization.

Students have four opportunities throughout the year to apply to the Teach for America program through GW’s local chapter. The next deadline is Nov. 5.

Rachna Pahuja, a 2003 GW graduate and the recruitment director for Teach for America on campus, said GW’s city location produces unique applicants to the Teach for America program.

“I feel like students at GW are constantly making that connection between what’s going on in the D.C. community and what’s going on at school,” Pahuja said. “And I think there are a lot of students on campus who genuinely believe that they can impact change.”

Students who apply to the program are allowed to specify where in America they would like to teach. Last year, 118 GW seniors applied to the program and 26 were accepted.

Kamras explained that D.C. is an important focus of the Teach for America program.

“You’ve got power and powerless right next to each other,” Kamras said of the D.C. area. “And I think people who have a small piece of that power … have an obligation to make sure that they’re thinking about those who are without power, the powerless.”

Junior Robert Sangster said that he knew little about the Teach for America program before attending the event, though he has an interest in working to help teach children.

“I think that when you’re able to incorporate people such as kids – who make life much more interesting – into a career field, it makes your career that much more exciting and you will want to stick with it a lot more,” said Sangster, a finance major.

Sangster said he attended the event in part to broaden his perspective post-graduate jobs.

“Choosing your career path is a really big deal,” Sangster said. “And it’s a lot easier to make that judgment the more people you talk to.”

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