ACCESS TO EDUCATION EXCELLENCE FOR ALL
1991 saw the end of the Cold War, the launch of the Hubble Telescope, the onset of the Internet for commercial use, and the birth of Teach for America. Its mission, in a nutshell: to improve education across the country, for all.
Right from the start, TFA fundamentally changed the way children are educated in the U.S. In the next quarter century, their ambitious goal is to solve remaining educational challenges. If the passion, dedication, and optimism of those involved with the organization are any indication, that goal is achievable.
The reputation and success record of Teach for America is so strong that competition is fierce among communities who want TFA involvement. So how did Buffalo win this prize? When evaluating potential partners, Teach for America takes into consideration student need, willingness of the school district, and support of the community. Buffalo qualified on all three, allowing TFA programs to start here in 2014. “Support from Oishei is one of the reasons we were able to launch,” says Executive Director Katie Campos. “They helped us make sure we identified and understood the issues, and are clear on strategy. They pushed us to define our impact, so that we can say, ‘here are our measurable outcomes’.”
Even more than an educational program, TFA is a leadership development organization, capitalizing on the leadership of people to advance its mission. One of its strategies is creating a culture of high expectations, where both students and teachers are able to thrive. “We make sure we start with excellent teachers—leaders in both the classroom and the community,” says Katie. “We provide training, inspiration, and other tools to help them succeed.”
“The Oishei Leaders Program, which brings together non-profit leaders, has also been a huge benefit or us. We’ve built great relationships, and it’s so helpful to see what other organizations are doing, and learn from each other.”
CAUSE FOR OPTIMISM
Currently, TFA is involved with five high-risk Buffalo schools, with 30 teachers and 300 students. “Our goal is to transform the lowest performing schools, taking them to high performance in the next five years,” notes Katie. The leadership philosophy is evident at the start of the school year, when teachers help students establish goals and learn how to invest in them. “By the end of the year, kids are working with each other. They’re more confident in their own knowledge and less dependent on the teacher.”