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Jessica Benson teaches reading and math remediation at R.H. Bearden Elementary School in Mississippi as part of Teach for America.

Teaching America's Kids

Graduates Join Nationwide Teaching Corps

October 6, 2009

By Debra Cano Ramos

Andrew Pegan

Eight Cal State Fullerton graduates entered classrooms across the country this fall to teach public school in low-income communities.

The 2009 graduates were selected as part of Teach For America, the national corps that recruits top college students to teach for at least two years in urban and rural public schools.

The graduates are from a range of academic majors, career interests and backgrounds, and have committed to teaching children in schools from Los Angeles to Philadelphia and Baltimore.

Edana St. Pierre

Cal State Fullerton had the most students placed in the 2009 Teach For America corps of any California State University campus, said Kandy Mink Salas, dean of students.

“We are so proud of all of our Teach For America participants,” Mink Salas said. “These alumni truly understand the need to give back to underserved communities and have decided to commit themselves to improving the educational experience of young people around the country.”

Teach For America, an AmeriCorps program, received 76 percent more applications from the university last year than the previous year, said MacKenzie Moritz, Teach For America recruitment director.

Lauren Nishida

“I’m really impressed with the quality of the students from Cal State Fullerton; they’re motivated students who are willing to put their commitment to social justice into action,” Moritz said. “Through their commitment, they become lifelong leaders in the effort to expand educational opportunity.”

For 2009-10, Teach For America received 35,000 applications — the largest number in the organization’s 20-year history — with 4,100 graduates placed into teaching positions in 35 regions across the country, Moritz added.

The Teach For America teachers from Cal State Fullerton and the area where they are working are:

Leo Otero

  • John Aguirre (B.A. ethnic studies – Chicano studies ‘09), Mississippi Delta;
  • Mia Arterberry (B.A. mathematics – teaching mathematics ‘09), Las Vegas;
  • Jessica Benson (B.S. child and adolescent studies and multiple subject credential ‘09), Mississippi Delta;
  • Lauren Nishida (B.S. child and adolescent studies ‘09), Bay Area;
  • Leo Otero (B.A. political science ‘09), Philadelphia;
  • Cassi Parkinson (B.S. child and adolescent studies ‘09), Colorado Springs;
  • Andrew Pegan (B.A. political science ‘09), Baltimore; and
  • Edana St. Pierre (B.A. child and adolescent studies ‘09), Los Angeles.

Mia Arterberry

Robert L. Palmer, vice president for student affairs, lauded the students for choosing to serve in America’s high-need schools.

“In the tough areas you will be teaching, there is a need for the best and the brightest,” Palmer told the group of students during a reception held in their honor. “Personally, I can’t think of a better calling than being a teacher. I know you’ll be great ambassadors for Cal State Fullerton, and maybe this will be the spark to make a lifetime commitment to education.”

Palmer added that it was a teacher who took an interest in him “who literally changed the focus of my life.”

Cassi Parkinson

Teach For America teachers, called corps members, are paid directly by the school districts for which they work and generally receive the same salaries and benefits as other beginning teachers, Moritz said. In addition, as corps members, teachers are eligible for student loan forbearance and education awards.

The teachers also attend an intensive summer training institute prior to beginning their two-year teaching assignments and receive ongoing professional development and support throughout their Teach For America commitment.

The next application deadline is Oct. 28. For more information, visit Teach for America's website.

John Aguirre

Robert L. Palmer

Kandy Mink Salas. Photo by Edward B. Salas

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