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New Mexico Teach For America Making a Difference for Native Kids

New Mexico's Teach For America program is looking to recruit American Indian educators to serve the Native American tribal communities in the area.

Want to make a difference for children in a Native American community?

New Mexico’s Teach For America (TFA) has a corps of teachers in the northwest of New Mexico and the northeast of Arizona that serves the Navajo Nation, Zuni Pueblo, Pueblo of Laguna and small towns in between. The organization is working with the Native Achievement Initiative and tribal communities to recruit more American Indian educators and to ensure that all teachers in the corps are employing culturally-responsive teaching techniques.

TFA began in New Mexico in 2001 with 25 teachers. There are now 119 teachers reaching 6,800 students in 21 communities.

But they are always looking for more. And not everyone who applies for the program has had previous teaching experience.

“Over the past 21 years, we’ve learned that there is no specific personality profile or background that predicts success in the classroom,” says the TFA website. “Some corps members were educators prior to joining, but many do not have any prior experience in the education field.”

New Mexico needs good educators. According to 2007 findings from the Foundation for Child Development the state was ranked lowest for overall child well-being which includes factors like economic well-being, health, safety, education attainment, social relationships and spiritual well-being.

One of the New Mexico corps members from 2008, Juliana Ko, took a student’s suicide to heart and because of it she led the way to renovate an old building that became the Thoreau Community Center on the Navajo Nation. The center offers art, sports, tutoring, movie nights, mental health counseling, life skills training, and traditional crafts like weaving.

“Kids need someone to talk to,” said Erick Sanders, who runs operations at the center, in a story posted on the TFA website. “A lot of parents are working in Gallup or somewhere far away because there are hardly any jobs in Thoreau. It’s hard for kids to find a mentor or adult to talk to. [Here] kids know that they will be acknowledged and get that attention.”

“Our philosophy involves engaging young people in anything that inspires them,” explains Ko, “anything that makes them think about the future with excitement and hope.”

Applicants interested in becoming a Teach For American corps member can apply online by February 15, 2013.