A career in education

ByDrea DeAngelo (op-ed)

On a snowy day in January 2003, as I was about to begin my last semester at Colby, I got some news that would change my life. I had been accepted to Teach For America and would be moving to Phoenix after graduation. At the time, I was mostly thrilled to be escaping the frozen Northeast for some Arizona sunshine and to have a job lined up doing something I aspired to do. But now, almost 10 years later, I can say that my Teach For America experience gave me so much more than a change of scenery: it opened the door to a career as an education leader.

Before I joined Teach For America, I wasn’t sure where I would wind up after graduation. I knew I liked my major, mathematical sciences, as well as playing on the Colby basketball team. I also knew from my experiences coaching and tutoring that I liked working with kids. And Teach For America’s mission of closing the achievement gap for underserved students really resonated with me. So, I decided to apply.

After moving to Phoenix, I became a founding math teacher at a new high school. Over the course of my two years as a Teach For America corps member, I learned a lot about teaching and even more about myself. I made mistakes, but Teach For America was there to support me, along with my fellow corps members. I developed a lot of grit during those years, as well as some incredibly important skills, like relationship-building and team management. I also forged many close relationships with my fellow corps members, many of whom I keep in touch with to this day.

Once my Teach For America commitment was up, I knew I wanted to stay in education. After spending a year as a live-in tutor on a houseboat—a job I found through Teach For America’s alumni job board—I made my way to KIPP Academy Lynn Middle School, just outside Boston. KIPP Lynn is part of the national network of KIPP schools that has had remarkable success in preparing kids from underserved communities for college. Immediately, I was struck by the enthusiasm at the school among both students and teachers, and the whatever-it-takes atmosphere. I jumped at the opportunity to join the staff as a math teacher and became chair of the math department the next year.

After four years, I realized that, while my students were graduating from middle school with some of the highest test scores in the state of Massachusetts, they didn’t have many high-quality options for high school. So, in the fall of 2011, I opened KIPP Academy Lynn Collegiate High School with a founding class of ninth graders. Thanks to my experiences with Teach For America and KIPP, I am now principal of a school that is tailor-made for the needs of my students.

At KIPP Academy Lynn Collegiate, Teach For America is still playing an integral role: over half of our staff are Teach For America corps members or alumni. And KIPP and Colby have a strong connection too; last fall they signed a partnership agreement to help KIPP students enroll at Colby and persist through graduation day. Our KIPP teaching community in Boston includes six Colby alumni, ranging in age from the class of 1996 to the class of 2011, many of whom also got their start with Teach For America. Our doors are always open, and we are happy to show you what a career jump-started by Teach For America might look like.

The next Teach For America application deadline is Nov. 2. I applied 10 years ago and it led me to an incredible career. Where will it take you?