Toni's Class

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Jan 19 2011

The Journey to TFA

When I left my law firm, I did not immediately search for a new career.

I don’t want to get into a tremendous amount of detail about why I chose to pursue a career in education, but I will say that I wanted to pursue work that would allow me the opportunity to change individual lives around me.  I spent a significant amount of time thinking about my own personal highest and best use.  How could I use my specialized education and knowledge, as well as my strong desire for excellence, to provide the most benefit to people around me?  Where was I needed?

Over the course of a few months, I began to research opportunities in education.  Upon reflection, it seemed to me that educational inequity is a foundational problem that leads to a number of other societal issues.  It appeared to me that with educational equality, other problems in our society (e.g., poverty, disease, unemployment, etc.) could be avoided.

Although I had desire to go into education, I had not decided on the path I would take to get there.  I spent time researching several options, like working with an education-related non-profit and even going back to school to obtain a degree in education.

One day, I attended a local job fair.  I had seen that a local school system would be participating, and I wanted to speak with someone about teaching.  When I spoke with a representative of the school system, we discussed my legal background and my interest in pursuing a career in education.  Thankfully, she was very honest and frank with me.  She said that without a demonstrated background or interest in teaching on my resume, I would likely be perceived as a burned out lawyer looking for an “easier” profession.  (Yes, lawyers seeking any type of career transition get that one a lot.  If you are a lawyer looking to transition, you will fight that stereotype everywhere you go.)  It seemed harsh, but I greatly appreciated her honesty.  If I would be fighting that perception, I needed to know it!  We talked about different ways that I could effectively begin the transition to education, like going back to school or becoming a part of Teach for America.  And that is when my path started becoming clearer to me.

I started researching Teach for America pretty heavily after that.  I was very impressed with the information that I found.  I read Teach for America’s website, I read editorials in a number of newspapers, and I read all of the blog posts I could get my hands on.  I read the good, the bad, and the ugly.  I understand some people love TFA, and some people have criticisms of TFA.  I understand that some people have had incredibly positive experiences teaching, and that others have had, well… less than positive experiences.

But at the end of the day, I believed (and still believe) in the work that TFA is doing to eliminate the achievement gap in our schools, and I wanted to be a part of it.  Teaching with Teach for America fit perfectly within the parameters of the mission statement I had previously identified for myself and the career goals that I had set to find challenging and meaningful work that would change lives.  I decided I would apply.  And the rest is history!

2 Responses

  1. It seems like a mid-career switch into teaching would have been difficult through “regular” routes. I’m glad that TFA gave you a path into teaching. Isn’t that the beauty of alternative programs? Good luck!

  2. Marc Press

    Thanks for the insight. Good luck in your future endeavors.

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Thoughts and Experiences of a Recovering Attorney

Metro Atlanta
Middle School
Social Studies

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