Last week, Teach For America welcomed the 2018 class of corps members to Phoenix, marking the organization’s 25th year in the Valley. The lively ceremony also signified the opening of the Phoenix Regional Institute, meaning that corps members can now receive their teacher training locally.
The Phoenix Institute is fully funded for the next four years by Helios Education Foundation, a champion investor in educational progress in Arizona. Funding for the institute also comes from Premier Sponsors, The Burton Family Foundation, The Steele Foundation and Arizona Community Foundation, as well as Supporting Sponsors, USAA and the Jack Ingebritson Foundation.
“It was a no brainer to bring the regional institute here, to train teachers here given the changing landscape of education in Arizona,” said Barbara Ryan Thompson, executive vice president and chief operating officer of Helios. With Helios’ commitment to closing the achievement gap for Latino students in Arizona, a partnership with Teach For America was the best step to amplify the mission of both organizations.
The 2018 Phoenix corps members received a warm welcome from TFA leadership, alumni, and family members. Ron Butler, chair of the Teach For America Phoenix Regional Board, assured new members that while their service promises to be difficult, it will also be transformative and worthwhile. “You are asked to teach where many won’t, and to achieve results that many say you can’t,” Butler said.
New corps members joined the ranks of a lifelong network of passionate education advocates. TFA’s presence in Phoenix during the last 25 years has been a shining example of the organization’s broader mission to systematically create lasting educational equity. Phoenix TFA alumni have extended the work of championing education far beyond their years as corps members.
Phoenix corps alumni can be found serving the community in many impactful ways, like Arizona State Representative Reginald Bolding, a 2008 corps member. Rep. Bolding commended the new class for making a commitment to the students of Phoenix, and for giving them the chance that they deserve but that the system does not always guarantee. Rep. Bolding was joined by Shelley Jackson, his former student who now works alongside him at the Arizona Coalition for Change. Her story of how a teacher and member of the corps positively altered the trajectory of her life is just one of many throughout TFA’s history in Phoenix.
Just before the close of the ceremony, the 2018 corps members were presented with metallic cactus pins, the signature of the Phoenix corps. Vice President of External Affairs for TFA Phoenix, Steve Erickson, explained that the cactus is resilient, persevering, and instinctively grows toward the light. Phoenix corps members are asked to live by these same values, and to do so in the name of their students and the fight for a quality education for all.