What if every child in the United States had the chance to stand in the shoes of an MIT student and call this campus home for four years? MIT alumna Katie Thomas ’10, a seventh-grade math teacher with Teach For America in the Bay Area, “wants every child in this country to have the desire and the ability to attend a great school like MIT.” For Thomas, the Teach For America mission reflects her belief that every child deserves an equal chance at a great education.
The Four Weeks for America Challenge, run collaboratively by Kristi Gundrum Kebinger of the MIT Public Service Center and Melissa Gregson of Teach For America, has grown over the past four years and has recently expanded to place 12 MIT students in schools as near as Boston and as far away as San Francisco.
Through the Four Weeks for America Challenge, MIT students will be spending their January break — known as Independent Activities Period (IAP) — in one of five states and will have Teach For America science and math teachers as mentors. Their projects are tailored to the particular needs of the classroom, from developing solid math and science curriculum to data analysis and improving classroom management systems. Working on these capacity-building projects will give MIT students invaluable insight into the achievement gap in America’s classrooms and educational policy implications.
Several Four Weeks For America participants have been accepted into Teach For America upon graduation, and the program’s success has inspired similar models at Johns Hopkins University and Harvard University.
Although the classroom can be both emotionally and professionally demanding, teachers like Thomas remember the purpose of their presence.
“I try to remind myself that the work I am doing is important,” she says. “If the problems with our education system were easy to fix, there wouldn’t be any. For many of our students, just having someone show they care can work wonders.”