Program Selects Outstanding Leaders to Help Reform Public Education

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Senior Allegra Abramson Joins Teach for America

Bard College at Simon’s Rock students who make the decision to begin college early are exceptionally engaged with their own educations. They often spread that passion to others through careers as educators. Allegra Abramson ’07 is one such student.

Allegra recently accepted a position with Teach for America (TFA), the national nonprofit education program established to eliminate education inequity. Founded in 1990, TFA trains a corps of teacher-leaders and now has over 20,000 alumni. Multiple studies published in peer-reviewed journals show TFA alumni play critical leadership roles in improving the quality of public education in low-income communities.

As a TFA corps member, Abramson will teach early-childhood education for two years in the Baltimore school system. During this time, Abramson will also pursue her master of education degree at Johns Hopkins University.

Entry to TFA is extremely competitive. The program recruits at the country’s elite universities using a rigorous application process. Candidates must first demonstrate a history of leadership experience before undergoing several in-person interviews. For the 2011 cycle, only 12% of applicants were accepted to the program.

The skills the program most values are central facets of a Simon’s Rock education: leadership, critical thinking, respect for diversity, and an ability to innovate and problem solve.

TFA thinks of “teaching as leadership,” and this makes Simon’s Rock students excellent candidates for the program. Because of the small size of the learning community at Bard College at Simon’s Rock, students have many opportunities to take a leadership role. They’re encouraged and aided in doing so at every turn. In Abramson’s case, she serves as editor-in-chief of Llama Ledger, the College’s student newspaper. She also has served on the Anti-Harassment Anti-Discrimination Committee and worked as a writing tutor. While at Haifa University in Israel during her junior year abroad, Abramson studied conflict resolution and held internships in local schools.

Bringing the Simon’s Rock experience to a classroom of her own

For Abramson, though, being treated with the utmost decency and respect by her professors is the experience that will most inform her skill as a teacher.

“So often, students are treated as subordinates, and that prevents meaningful relationships from developing between teachers and students. Often, students are threatened with failure or treated as if they’re not capable. That’s completely counterproductive, and because of my experience at Simon’s Rock, I’m prepared to make a space where my students know that I think they are smart and capable people.”

Originally from Bethesda, Maryland, Abramson started thinking about educational inequity in high school, where she was moved by the extreme disparity between her school and schools in nearby Baltimore.

“My interest in education is actually what attracted me to Simon’s Rock,” Abramson says. “I always knew there were problems with the system, and I felt strongly that high school didn’t serve to maximize student potential.”

A number of Simon’s Rock alumni have participated in TFA, including Ashley (Ray) Pérez ’00, who recently published a young adult novel, What Can’t Wait. Pérez is in the final stages of finishing a PhD in comparative literature at Indiana University and has plans to teach at the university level. Another Simon’s Rock TFA alum, Reginald Greene ’00, was on campus for an alumni panel during Family Weekend last October, where he discussed his experience in TFA and the various education leadership roles he’s held since. Abramson met with Greene to discuss the program, and she calls their conversation “inspirational.”