"I didn't always want to teach."This is an ironic statement coming from Amber Shields, a Teach for America alumna, who at one point was deciding between going to law school and pursuing the life of an educator. After graduating from the University of Texas at Austin, she decided to chase her passion — helping kids in her community get the same opportunities that she had been given. "I knew of the impact that teachers had on my life, and I decided that I wanted to have that same impact on students' lives. I think a lot of times, teachers are definitely inspirational role models for students," Shields says. "Toward the end of my college experience, I knew I wanted to have the opportunity to develop and mold students in my community of Dallas, Texas."
The students must've had just as big of an impact on Amber as she did on them.After completing her required two-year contract at Uplift Education in Fort Worth, Texas through Teach for America, she decided to continue in the field of education. She currently works as a third grade Reading and Social Studies teacher at Jimmie Tyler Brashear Elementary School in Dallas, Texas. Becoming an educator through Teach for America is certainly no easy feat. Every year thousands of applicants submit to the corps, which, according to Ashley Johnson, a representative with Teach for America, come from all walks of life. "Our corps is diverse racially, ethnically, socioeconomically, and we recruit people with vastly different life experiences," says Johnson. "Many of our teachers come from the communities in which we serve, and others come from more privileged backgrounds." Although there's no one profile of the perfect Teach for America candidate (they welcome both professionals and recent graduates), a person who has a deep belief in helping children reach their full potential and knows how they want to contribute to educational equity is key. The required two-year commitment is just the beginning of a lifelong career dedicated to providing an excellent education to kids in low-income communities where quality teachers and resources often lack. In other words, they're looking for people who are serious about helping to change lives and mold the minds of our youth. Amber teaching her class while apart of Teach for America. Photo: Amber Shields
The application processApplying for Teach for America can be daunting for someone who's just doing it for perks. After submitting their applications online, candidates are invited to do a phone interview, then an in-person interview (including a live, five-minute teaching demo) and then after making it through the day-long interview in which they teach a sample lesson to the group and work on a problem-solving activity, chosen candidates are put through a rigorous training camp where they learn the basic strategies and skills to be an effective beginning teacher. But nothing prepares you for your first day in front of the classroom like getting out there and doing it. "After the institute, you are definitely provided with resources, but I still experienced challenges. For example, I only had 12 students in my class during institute but when I started teaching in the Fall I had 25 students, so it was really a big difference. So I think it was a challenge just adjusting to life outside of the institute," Shields shares. But don't worry, they won't just throw you to the
"Teaching shouldn’t be an alternative or just an option to try to get student loans paid off. "