Web Letters | The Nation

Hootnick interviewee defends Teach For America, updates his story

As a source for the May 5 article “Teachers Are Losing Their Jobs, but Teach for America’s Axpanding,” by Alexandra Hootnick, I thought it was a disingenuous take on an organization that has been recruiting and preparing new teachers for high-needs schools across the country for over twenty-four years.

I was surprised that the author used a two-year-old interview with me in my first year of teaching (a bewildering flashpoint for any new teacher or professional, for that matter) to frame her argument that Teach For America’s growth is outpacing need. If she had followed up with me today she would have learned that I’m currently headed into my fourth year of teaching math at South Shore Elementary, a high-needs school where 63 percent of kids receive Free and Reduced Lunch. She would have learned that while I do spend my summer vacation as an instructional coach helping train and support new corps members, I am not pursuing full-time roles with the organization, nor planning to leave the classroom anytime soon. She also would have learned about the incredible veteran teachers in my school who are a source of tremendous support and comradery. And most importantly, she would have heard about the incredible students I have taught for two years.

I was left wondering where the interviews with supporters were—such as the principals in the Puget Sound and now South Central Washington who hire corps members, and the 2011 alums in Washington who’ve been teaching well beyond two years. Or the parents who were standing up in those early school board meetings—parents like Mr. Keller who testified on my behalf during an unusually public and stressful hiring process. Or community leaders, who’ve welcomed us to the community with open arms. Or the committed faculty at UW who’ve played a huge role in my growth as a teacher and my ambitions to pursue a PhD in math education.

Like any good educator, I respect constructive criticism. Unfortunately, this piece just felt like digging into old wounds.

Kenneth Maldonado


May 20 2014 - 2:28pm