Alexandria Barkmeier '07 and Andrew Arenge '10 share insights into working for Teach for America

Teach for America

Most Wednesday evenings you will find Andrew Arenge '10 at a Wendy's fast-food restaurant near Clarksdale, Miss., with calculators, workbooks, and white boards scattered on the tables near him. And no, it is not because he is cramming for a test or addicted to the Frosties.

Gathered around Arenge are students from the 9th and 10th grade high school math class he teaches as a corps member for Teach For America. He finds the setting for his weekly tutoring sessions creates a more relaxed environment for his students to learn.

"I usually get anywhere from 5 to 20 students to show up each week," said Arenge, who is from Bordentown, N.J., and majored in political science and minored in theatre arts and film studies. "I look forward to these sessions each week because I love seeing students outside of school."

Arenge recalled a recent tutoring session that started with a student who had a few geometry questions but quickly took a turn to another subject. "I spent two hours tutoring a student in biology instead because she was retaking her biology state test the next day and needed to pass it in order to graduate. She came to me a few months later, excited to show me her scores. She passed."

Teach For America (TFA) is the national corps of top college graduates and professionals who commit to teach for two years in urban and rural public schools and become lifelong leaders in the effort to expand educational opportunity. Arenge is one of 9,300 current corps members teaching in 43 regions across the country. Since TFA's founding in 1990, 39 Gettysburg graduates have joined the teaching corps.

"I decided to take an education course during the spring semester of my senior year at Gettysburg - Urban Education with Professor Carol Rinke - and we actually studied Teach For America. I had already made the decision to join TFA, and it was a really great class to begin thinking about some of the complexities of education."

Nearly 24,000 TFA alumni are working in education and many other sectors to create the systemic changes that will help end educational inequity. Alexandria Barkmeier '07 is one of them.

"I truly believe that education is one of the most realistic tools we have to address poverty," said Barmkeier, who is from Boulder, Colo., and majored in English. "I was drawn to both the short term mission of serving as a teacher in a low-income community and the longer term mission of molding leaders who would take their experiences as teachers in these communities to every facet of society."

Barkmeier served as a TFA corps member in Denver, completing her term in June 2009. She enrolled at Georgetown University Law School, focusing her entire law school experience on education law and policy in low-income communities.

"When I graduate, I hope to work either at the Department of Education or in national education advocacy. I'm particularly interested in Civil Rights law, data collected regarding disciplinary issues, and exclusionary discipline policies as applied disproportionately in low-income schools," Barkmeier said.

No matter what the future holds for either Arenge or Barkmeier, they know that they and all TFA corps members are connected by a common experience that has left a great impact on their lives.

"I love being able to tell my students about my college experience at Gettysburg and hear about their plans and goals for their own lives," Arenge said. "But at the end of the day what matters is that the students who sat before me learned something. No matter the daily struggles, the best part of the job is the ability to be in front of kids each and every day."

"I would encourage Gettysburg College students not to apply only because it will look good on a resume," Barkmeier said. "Because, without a doubt, this experience will reshape and craft the rest of your life."

By: Kendra Martin, director of media relations & news content

Posted: Mon, 31 Oct 2011

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