Brittany Tourelle ('11) will join the Teach for America program starting with the upcoming academic year. Her specific assignment will have her working in the area of early childhood education in New Orleans. This is a logical next step that connects Brittany's studies in anthropology and her current work in Yucatan.
Teach for America is an organization partnered with AmeriCorps that seeks to provide a quality education for all children in America. Teach for America is specifically designed to address the "achievement gap" - the trend of low-income students performing significantly lower in school and demonstrating lower rates of continuing education than their wealthier counterparts. It is the goal of TFA to eliminate this bias by placing highly qualified teachers in high need areas where they can directly affect change in student's confidence, opinions on education, and success in the classroom.
Since she graduated in May 2011, Brittany has been working as an intern of Kaxil Kiuic A.C., Millsaps' non-profit biocultural reserve in the Yucatán. Brittany's job is to manage the scholarship program established in the community of Yaxachen. In this community, educational access is only available up to a middle school level; students typically do not continue studying after completing middle school. The mission of the scholarship program is to provide access to a quality high-school education in a community otherwise unable to provide said access to their youth. Brittany has tried to revitalize the scholarship program as parental permission to participate has long presented a road block for students wishing to continue studying and for attempts to provide educational access to the community.
"Many of the Kaxil Kiuic scholarship program's goals align with those of Teach for America," Brittany says. "Having seen first-hand the struggles that a low income community faces in terms of education here in Mexico, I felt prepared to apply to TFA and tackle a similar issue in my own country. TFA provides a staggering amount of research, resources, and benefits to its corps members, so I knew while applying that the organization would do a superb job of preparing me to lead a classroom should I be accepted."
Brittany plans to continue to work in Mexico until late May when she will return to the states to begin training with TFA. However, the program will continue in Yaxachen under the guidance of Philip Boyett ('12). Upon Brittany's return to the states, she will begin a five week intensive training program in Atlanta, GA where TFA will place her in a summer school classroom and guide her to become a highly effective teacher. She will then return to her hometown of New Orleans, LA to teach in an early childhood classroom.
The commitment to TFA is a two-year long contract, but the organization also offers tremendous alumni support for corps members. Should she wish to continue her education in graduate school or seek employment after the two-year commitment, Teach for America has numerous partners that provide tuition assistance, graduate assistantships, and job placements in the corporate sector for TFA alums. Brittany will also be a licensed teacher after her first year, giving her the option to stay in the classroom after completing her commitment with TFA should she so choose.
"While it deeply saddens me to leave Mexico after my 14 month stay, I am excited to begin a new chapter in my personal life and to partner with an incredible organization known for its ability to effect positive change. I have never considered working in early childhood education, which was certainly a surprise placement for me, but I look forward to the opportunity to shape a child's first experiences in the classroom. If I can provide a solid foundation of success for my students at a very young age, I'll know that I have done a great service for their futures in the classroom, in higher education, and in the world at large," explains Brittany.