Wendy Kopp: Teach for America

Teach for America
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As far as visionary, social entrepreneurs who have changed the world through their big ideas go, Wendy Kopp is certainly up there with the best of them.

Wendy Kopp founded Teach for America, a national teacher recruitment program which seeks to attract college graduates to the classroom, in 1991. College grads who enlist in TFA commit to teaching for 2 years in a low-income community.

Though as of 2011 more than 33,000 teachers have positively impacted more than 3 million children nationwide, when Teach for America first began it was on a much smaller scale. In fact, the idea for the program stemmed from Wendy’s 1989 undergraduate thesis she wrote while attending Princeton University. But rather than letting her idea live on paper only, in 1990, she recruited 500 recent college graduates from universities around the country to teach in low-income schools around the country and brought her idea to life.

In that first year, the pilot program operated in 5 areas: Los Angeles, New Orleans, New York City, Southern Louisiana, and Eastern North Carolina. Flash forward to today, and Teach for America teachers are working in over 35 regions around the country, focusing on underfunded inner-city and rural schools.

In a profile of Wendy Kopp in TIME Magazine, Wendy had this to say about her inspiration for starting Teach for America:

As a senior at Princeton I felt like the whole world was open to me. In our country, that’s not a given. We aspire to be a place of equal opportunity, and yet where you’re born determines your prospects. The only way to solve that is to marshal the energy of our most promising future leaders.

While Wendy founded Teach for America 22 years ago, she is still at the helm of the organization as its CEO. While at TFA, Wendy also founded Teach for All, a global network of independent social enterprises which are working to expand educational opportunity in their nations by recruiting and developing their nation’s most promising future leaders to commit two years to teach in high-need areas and become lifelong leaders for educational excellence and equity.

To find out more about Wendy’s inspiring story, you can read her bestselling memoir, One Day, All Children…: The Unlikely Triumph of Teach for American and What I Learned Along the Way.

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