June 26, 2009 — This fall, 52 of the University of Virginia's 2009 graduates will begin teaching in urban and rural public schools across the country through the Teach for America program — the seventh-highest total among large colleges and universities.
The number of students participating this year doubled from 2008, when U.Va. ranked 17th among large-sized schools with 27 graduates heading into the corps. The overall number of Teach for America participants nationwide has increased from 3,700 to 4,100, the largest in the organization's history.
Teach for America is a national corps of recent college graduates who work to expand educational opportunities and commit to teach at least two years in urban and rural public schools. The 6,200 total corps members, of all different academic backgrounds, serve in 29 regions across the country.
"As Teach for America has continued to grow and become more robust, more and more students are aware of it," said Kendra Nelsen, director for student services of University Career Services. "They are aware that it isn't just a great opportunity for people interested in teaching. It's great for a lot of different professions."
The recession and lagging job market may have contributed to the increase in the number of U.Va. graduates accepting Teach for America offers, Nelsen said.
The U.Va. graduates joining Teach for America are strong leaders, said Nichole Curtis, who recruits U.Va. students for Teach for America. "They've shown they want to give back to the community," she said.
The U.Va. graduates entering the Teach for America corps all share a commitment to community service, Curtis said, but they come from a variety of academic backgrounds, including biology, education, commerce, pre-med and pre-law students.
The 2009 corps nationwide earned an average GPA of 3.6 and a combined SAT score of 1333, and 89 percent held leadership positions as undergraduates.
A record 35,000 students applied to the 2009 Teach for America corps. At more than 130 colleges and universities, more than 5 percent of the senior class applied, including 11 percent of all seniors at Ivy League universities and nearly 7 percent of U.Va. fourth-year students.
U.Va. graduate Will Eden, who will teach middle school science in Washington, D.C., this fall and served as a Teach for America student recruiter, also credits spring break trips to the New Orleans area as sparking an interest in many U.Va. students. Many U.Va. graduates will be teaching in the greater New Orleans area this fall, Eden said.