While an undergraduate at Princeton University Wendy Kopp had an idea, a big idea. She wasn’t a teacher herself, but she was keenly aware that academic outcomes for low-income kids were not great. Long after desegregation, public schools were still a place of inequity. Many school districts were facing a nationwide teacher shortage to boot.  

Teach For America

Kopp wanted to create a program where recent college grads interested in public service could teach disadvantaged youth in high-need urban and rural schools. It would be like the peace corps, but for teachers here in the U.S.. This became the subject of her 1989 senior thesis at Princeton. Shortly after graduating she founded Teach For America (TFA), a wildly successful education program that has helped thousands of students and teachers alike.

TFA began in December 1989 when Kopp gathered 100 part-time student recruiters from 100 universities. This began TFA’s first teacher recruiting program. Kopp was absolutely convinced that many high-performing college students were looking for a way to make a meaningful difference in the world. If given the opportunity, Kopp felt they would choose teaching over a more lucrative job. Particularly if a well-respected teacher corps program existed.

In 1990, 500 recent college graduates joined the TFA’s charter corps and the program has continued to expand. In the 2016-17 school year, there are nearly 6,900 corps members teaching in high-need classrooms in 36 states and DC. The program is so popular, that only 14% of those that apply are accepted into the TFA.

Teach For All

Piggybacking off her success in the U.S., in 2007 Kopp founded Teach For All, a global network of nonprofit organizations that applies the same model as TFA in other countries. Teach For All recruits and places teachers in high-need areas throughout the world. The program currently reaches students in 40 different countries.

Wendy has been recognized as one of Time Magazine’s 100 Most influential People and is the recipient of numerous honorary degrees and awards for public service.

If you’re interested in learning more about the Teach For All organization and its impact, Kopp chronicled her experiences in two books, One Day, All Children and A Chance to Make History.

You can also check out Wendy’s video on the Makers website where she talks about what sparked the idea for TFA, the challenges she faced early on in founding the program, and the impact TFA has had on students and alumni.

VIDEO: http://www.makers.com/wendy-kopp

What do you think about Kopp’s Teach For America program?  Have you or anyone you know participated in or benefited from TFA?  Share your thoughts and comments in our Education Community.