Teach for America
It's fifth grade all over again for this MU graduate, Sarah Amos. This time, Amos is teaching in one of St. Louis' poorest schools as part of the "Teach for America" program. A job she says allows her to make a difference.
"This is really just an amazing thing to get into the classroom and to bring all these skills that I learned at MU back into my home city," Amos said.
Teach for America is growing rapidly. The program started with 500 teachers in 1990, and today there are nearly 5,000.
"We recruit the best and brightest college graduates around the country to go into urban education and teach students who are three, four or five grade levels behind," said Dustin Odham a director for Teach for America. With Teach for America no teaching experience is required.
"I was a finance major at Southern Methodist University, with plans to go into investment banking or management consulting, and I came into the classroom and taught math," says Odham.
College students don't spend years preparing for this job.
"When a teacher comes to Teach for America, they go to a summer institute which is a five week crash course in teaching," Odham told KOMU.
Many longtime educators praise Teach for America's mission which is to close the achievement gap in schools, but some educators wonder if Teach for America fully prepares teachers for the classroom.
"The five week institute certainly covers the same type of course work, but it's in such a condensed period of time that it's very hard to assimilate that and then be able to immediately get immersed into a classroom and be successful," said MU College of Education Dean Deborah Carr.
Amos admits the job certainly has its challenges, "I am not a morning person and I was like one of those people that took, like an 11 o'clock class was early as far as I was concerned, and all of a sudden I was getting up at like six o'clock in the morning everyday, and that was a big adjustment."
It's the success of her kids that keep her motivated
"Last year, I had a student that couldn't spell the word day, D-A-Y, could not read it and could not spell it. By the end of the year, he could read you a chapter in the book Charlotte's Web," said Amos.
They don't use chalk in this classroom, but for Amos, chalk is now in her blood. Teach for America plans to send teachers to Kansas City starting in the fall of 2008.