Messenger - Vol. 4, No. 3, Page 13
Top-notch grads: Teach for America

     Jessica Kinstlinger's workday is rarely easy. A fifth-grade
teacher at PS153, a large public school in the Harlem section of New
York City, the 1994 Delaware graduate spends much of her day
attempting to bring order to a classroom overflowing with behavior
     The juggling act of disciplining 32 students, teaching many
subjects, giving tests, grading papers, writing lesson plans and
dealing with school district bureaucracy hasn't been easy for
Kinstlinger, whose long-term career plans don't even include teaching.
     Kinstlinger is one of four recent Delaware graduates currently
involved in Teach For America, a program that selects the nation's
brightest college graduates and places them as teachers in "under-
resourced" urban or rural school districts.
     Despite the challenges, Kinstlinger says, in many ways, this
first year of teaching has been the best of her life.
     "Every morning when I wake up, I feel like I'm going to do
something useful. I feel like I'm making a difference in these kids'
lives, and that is very satisfying," says Kinstlinger, who majored in
family and community services in the UD's College of Human Resources
and plans to earn a master's degree in teaching before pursuing a
career in social work.
     Most Teach For America members did not major in education in
college. In fact, many plan to pursue other careers upon completion of
their two-year commitment to the program. Teach For America does work
to cultivate talented teachers but also seeks to encourage those who
choose an alternative career to be advocates of education.
     Each of the Delaware graduates now involved in the program works
in a school district that's struggling financially. Resources are
limited. Classrooms are sometimes unruly. Parental involvement and
student interest sometimes are lacking. But, they say, they are making
a difference.
     Kisha Limerick, Delaware '93, teaches first grade at the South
17th Street  School in Newark, N.J. Her experience has been so
positive that she plans to teach in the school again next year, even
though she'll have finished her two-year commitment to Teach For
     Teaching at an under-funded school is difficult because resources
are limited, but obstacles can be overcome if teachers work hard to
excite the children, says Limerick, who majored in educational studies
at Delaware.
     "They are very smart children, and they have the ability to do
well. They just need people to believe in them and care about them and
take the time to teach them. Everyone says that kids in the inner city
can't do this and can't do that, but I see the love they have for
learning," she says.
     "I feel that if I get in there and help them and love them and
teach them, my effort will go really far towards helping them get out
of the cycle that leaves them at a disadvantage," she says. "They need
other African-American role models."
     Students at PS153 in Harlem never have recess because there is no
school yard in which they can play. Kinstlinger's fifth-graders
received their first books almost four weeks into the school year.
     "Compared to other school systems in the state, we don't have the
same resources, and it's very frustrating. I'm frustrated for the
students," says Danielle Chappell, Delaware '94M, a sixth-grade
language arts teacher at Northeast Middle School in Baltimore, Md.
     To ensure that her students have the proper materials, Chappell
spends her own money on teaching supplies as well as on books the
children can take home to read.
     Having first heard about Teach For America as an undergraduate at
St. Mary's College in Maryland, she signed on as a corps member after
graduating from Delaware with a master's degree in English. She plans
to attend law school after completing her two years with Teach For
America, and ultimately, she wants to work as an advocate for child
education in urban areas.
     Michele Goldsmith, Delaware '92, is a first-year Teach For
America member working with sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade special
education students at Elmhurst Middle School in Oakland, Calif. Like
Chappell, she too has invested personal money in books and worksheets
for the classroom.
     "I've definitely learned about the ways schools work, the
conditions teachers are asked to work under and the conditions kids
are asked to go to school under," says Goldsmith, a psychology major
at Delaware who went on to earn a master's degree in social work from
the University of Pennsylvania.
     As a resource specialist at the middle school, Goldsmith teaches
three special education classes per day, monitors the students'
regular classes to ensure that their teachers are modifying curriculum
to meet their needs and completes all federally required paperwork on
each student.
     "The thing I'm proudest of so far is that I've developed good
relationships with the students. I'm proud that they respect me and
trust me and that I haven't lowered my expectations of them,"
Goldsmith says.
     After being accepted into Teach For America, corps members attend
an intense, summer-long, pre-service institute that prepares them for
the initial weeks in the classroom. They practice teaching, attend
workshops on education-related topics and develop lesson plans in
small groups. They also develop a network of friends from whom they
draw support.
     Leigh Anne Grady, Delaware '92, who taught French in rural
Louisiana as a Teach For America member from 1992 to 1994, met her
fiance there.
     "Being a teacher isn't hard, but being a good teacher is probably
the most difficult job in the world," says Grady, who plans to earn a
master's degree in education before heading back to the classroom. "If
I wanted an easy job, I wouldn't say I wanted to go into teaching."
     "The program is doing wonderful things and really making a
difference in kids' lives," Kinstlinger says. "That's the bottom
                                         -Marylee Sauder, Delaware '83