A letter to the Seattle School Board from Dr. Barbara Torre Veltri regarding Teach for America, Inc.
March 16, 2012
Seattle Board of Directors
Seattle, Washington 98124-1165
Dear Mr. DeBell, Ms. Smith-Blum, Ms. Patu, and Executive Committee Members,
Thank you for your interest in children and your advocacy for education in Seattle. I have had the pleasure of preparing teachers at Northern Arizona University who are Seattle natives and are teaching in your schools. I have also been privileged to work with Seattle Public School teachers and administrators in the capacity of professional development presenter over the last two decades.
While in your city, I felt the commitment of your teachers and administrators, who not only participated in faculty development sessions (Thematic Teaching with Sports…Baseball), but also were hungry for new ideas, innovative teaching methods, and ways to motivate and engage their elementary and middle school students.
I write to you now because I am very concerned about what appears to be the national erosion of the professional educator. I am eager to offer my expertise on a program that I have spent nearly a dozen years examining. By chance, I became the mentor, coach, instructor and university liaison for Teach For America’s novice teachers and they have become the primary research area of my professional work.
Like many Americans, who appear impressed with the patriotic sounding name, Teach For America, and their work, I assumed that I knew about the program, even though I had no firsthand knowledge or information about the organization. I never imagined that I would learn about the corps experience, recruitment, training, professional development, grade level placement, and why recent college graduates even apply to an organization that suggests that their two-‐year commitment is a type of “service” directed at poor, children of color.
Over seven years of consecutive interactions with alums, corps, administrators and current corps members, I found out through direct observation in classrooms and as an invited presenter at TFA’s All-‐Corps Meetings and the even small gatherings that TFA teachers requested I attend, when things began to unravel, that TFA teachers do not have a command of what it takes to execute the necessary classroom skill sets.