Teach for America alumni are not fly-by-night

  • Article by: SARA PIMENTAL
  • Updated: June 26, 2013 - 7:18 PM

We are tested and diligently pursue licensure.

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I  am a teacher — a professional educator. I have held a full-time limited Minnesota teaching license for the past two years. I am also a recent alumna of Teach For America. For two years, I have taught English as a second language at Green Central School in Minneapolis. I have also, along with fellow corps members, been enrolled in a traditional teacher’s licensure program at Hamline University.

There seems to be a widespread misconception that TFA teachers in Minnesota are not “traditionally” trained or qualified. On top of attending rigorous summer institute training, corps members in Minnesota are required to pass the Minnesota Teacher Licensure Examinations — a standardized, content-specific test which in recent years has replaced the Praxis and is a factor in determining teacher-readiness.

Traditionally trained teachers generally take these tests toward the end of their program, which is thought to have prepared them to pass. Not only do corps members pass these tests as well, but we pass them before taking a single “traditional” education class.

Further, each corps member is enrolled in appropriate licensure programs, currently in partnership with Hamline. Within our first two years, we are expected to make progress each semester toward our teaching license. I am completing the coursework for my ESL license this summer and moving on to work on a master’s in ESL.

In my district, I had a mentor whose job is to support first-year teachers. My mentor found me and TFA colleagues to be on a range of “developing” to “proficient” (some even “exemplary”) in the various categories of the Standards of Effective Instruction, the district’s rubric used to assess teachers.

Not only this, but we also had our mentor from TFA observing more frequently, holding us accountable for student results and helping us to continuously improve. I wonder what the results would look like when comparing our observation performance with those traditionally licensed. I’d be happy to make mine public.

I’m not an outstanding teacher; I’m not terrible. I’m not undertrained; I may be overtrained. I care about student outcomes and how their education impacts their lives. I believe a child’s ZIP code or neighborhood should not determine his or her college-readiness. I care about social justice. I believe this can be solved in our lifetime. Let’s do it together.

I am committed to that … and that is not an afterthought. I am a teacher.

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Sara Pimental lives in St. Paul.

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