Wendy Kopp submitted her senior thesis, entitled “An Argument and Plan for the Creation of the Teachers Corps,” at Princeton University, where she outlines the case for launching Teach For America in 1990. The vision of the organization was to recruit outstanding individuals who may not have otherwise considered teaching, meet the needs of urban and rural school districts that face persistent teacher shortages, and to support teachers to positively impact their students while solidying their own commitment to America’s education system.
During the 1989-1990 school year, Teach For America recruited its charter corps from more than 100 campuses across the country – from the Ivy League and other private institutions, to major state universities, and historically-Black colleges and universities. That fall, 49 recent college graduates came to New Orleans and Baton Rouge to serve in Teach For America’s charter corps. There were also corps members serving in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, rural North Carolina, and rural Georgia.
a national selection process manager for the 1990-1991 school year and regional director for Teach For America Greater New Orleans from 1992-1994
Founding Executive Director, Teach For America Greater New Orleans
During the third week of school, on September 17, 1990, teachers across Orleans Parish went on strike over contract disputes and working conditions. There was disagreement within Teach For America as to the role corps members should play in the strike. In the end, about one-third of the corps members decided to join the strike, one-third stayed home, and one-third went into schools and taught.
At the end of the first school year, TFA began placing teachers beyond New Orleans to other parishes across the state. In addition to New Orleans, teachers were placed in St. Bernard, Jefferson, Plaquemines, Terrebonne, Lafourche, Iberia, and St. Mary’s Parishes, as well as parishes around Baton Rouge and in Northern Louisiana near the borders with Arkansas and Texas.
Under the direction of Executive Director David Paulson, who was also a charter corps members in Greater New Orleans, Teach For America begins building out infrastructure to better support corps members, most notably hiring local teachers to serve as mentors to corps members in their schools. This was a critical component of the program that helped corps members acclimate to their communities and classrooms, and was the first ongoing professional development that corps members received.
Sarah Usdin (South Louisiana, ’92) becomes the executive director of TFA GNO and begins to raise awareness for the organization’s mission within the community. During this time, she created a local advisory board and began building relationships with local donors. Teach For America Week was launched, which was an annual campaign to bring more visibility to public education and Teach For America’s impact by inviting local leaders into the schools and classrooms that TFA served.
90% of principals rate corps members’ teaching as “good” or “excellent” in a national survey.
Julie Mikuta (Greater New Orleans ’91) is the first alum on record to run for and win public office, serving as an elected member of the Washington, D.C., Board of Education.
In 2000, Jason Finney becomes executive director of Teach For America Greater New Orleans. Nationally, Teach For America launches an ambitious goal to double the size of the corps over five years.
In 2002, President George W. Bush signs the No Child Left Behind Act into law. The intention of the law was to hold schools accountable to making sure every student was achieving on grade-level, with increased standardized testing that provided important insights into student demographics and education outcomes. However, the law was largely criticized for focusing entirely on outcomes and not taking into account student growth.
In 2003, Mary Garton (Greater New Orleans, '91) becomes executive director of Teach For America Greater New Orleans. That same year, Louisiana legislature created the Recovery School District to take over and turn around chronically failing schools statewide. As the second-lowest performing school district in Louisiana, nearly all public schools in New Orleans were slated for takeover. The Recovery School District launches its first turnaround school during the 2004-2005 school year.
TFA alumna Melissa Sawyer founds the Youth Empowerment Project, a nonprofit that provides mentoring, adult education and high school equivalency preparation, employment readiness and career exploration, and out-of-school time enrichment programming for students who live in poverty or have experienced trauma.
“Teach for America had a foundational impact on my career. It brought me to New Orleans and gave me my first opportunity to work with young people in the city. I’m proud that over the past 17 years, YEP has become a sustainable community-based organization and positively impacted the lives of thousands of young people.”
Hurricane Katrina made landfall in New Orleans on August 29, 2005, weeks into the 2005-2006 school year. On August 30, the levee system surrounding the city failed, causing flooding in 80% of New Orleans, as well as 100% of neighboring St. Bernard Parish. More than 1,000 people were killed during the storm, and the majority of public-school buildings sustained significant damage. Thousands of people evacuated the city, staying away for months or years.
Some schools in neighboring Jefferson Parish and St. Bernard Parish reopen as early as October 2005, but many schools in New Orleans would not open until the following school year. Teach For America corps members placed in New Orleans had been given the option to teach elsewhere due to the uncertainty of the storm, but several returned to the region to teach as soon as they were able along with TFA alumni educators
“When Hurricane Katrina hit, [my principal] asked me to come back to teach after Jefferson Parish schools opened in October. When the Baton Rouge airport reopened, I bought a car and commuted from Bogalusa to Jefferson Parish to teach. Eventually, I bought an air mattress and lived with a colleague for a month before I was able to get back to my house in Orleans Parish. That school year, everyone was in survival mode. I felt very fortunate that, unlike so many other corps members in Greater New Orleans, I was able to spend two years at the same school, with the same principal, in the same content area. We had huge classes – sometimes 45 kids. I focused on providing stability. For so many students, immediately post-Katrina, school was the closest thing to normalcy.”
After the storm, the Louisiana legislature transferred control of over 100 low-performing New Orleans schools to the RSD, leaving the city’s 17 highest-performing schools with the Orleans Parish School Board. The RSD began making plans to authorize charter schools to reopen schools as soon as possible. The Orleans Parish School Board found itself without students and funding and in an unprecedented move, terminated all of its 6,800 New Orleans teachers and staff. This decision prevents many teachers from being able appeal the decision as notices were delivered to teachers' old addresses, sometimes to houses that no longer existed. They directed teachers wanting to appeal the layoff to come to the School Board's building, which Katrina had destroyed. Public school teachers wishing to teach in Orleans Parish, including TFA corps members and alumni, were forced to reapply for positions as they became available while trying to rebuild their lives after the storm. Many teachers that were the backbone of the New Orleans education system never returned.
In September 2006, 25,000 students returned to New Orleans for the 2006-2007 school year. That year, the RSD opened and directly operated 17 schools, while overseeing another 17 charter schools to ensure there were enough schools to support returning students. Due to the gradual reopening of schools, parents could enroll their children in any school city-wide. Many TFA alumni already living in Greater New Orleans and others from throughout the country traveled to the area to ensure that there would be quality schools for Orleans Parish students to attend. Alumni applied for charters, recruited students on the streets of New Orleans, and went door-to-door to make sure that families knew how to enroll their students for the school year.
"I taught at Samuel J. Green Charter School, and it was the best place you could have ended up post-Katrina. The principal, Tony Recasner, started the first charter school in New Orleans. He was a child psychologist, and he understood the impact of trauma in children, and he understood the experience of Black students in New Orleans. His approach and his love and compassion for both students and staff was an amazing experience, and he inspired me to eventually become a principal."
"My time as a TFA corps member opened my eyes to the potential that I had to effectively lead classrooms, and later schools, anchored in love and respect for the students and communities I had the honor to serve.”
The years immediately following Katrina saw a massive teacher shortage, due largely to the system-wide teacher dismissals, displacement by the storm, and the state of disarray of the local school system. The RSD undertook a massive effort to recruit and hire teachers prior to the 2007-2008 school year, working closely with teacher recruitment organizations like Teach For America, TeachNOLA, and New Leaders for New Schools. In response, Teach For America allocated 100 additional corps members to teach in Greater New Orleans as more students began to return to the region. At this time, Kira Orange Jones becomes executive director of Teach For America Greater New Orleans.
As Teach For America continues to expand its corps size across the country, the GNO corps also grows to over 200 corps members each year. At the same time, alumni are drawn to the city to support the transformation of New Orlean's education system and the opportunity for innovation it provides. The increased interest in innovative education solutions inspires social entrepreneurs across the city to create new schools, businesses, and non-profits devoted to supporting students and schools. Many of these initiatives are started by Teach For America alumni.
In 2007, Teach For America alumna Rhonda Kalifey-Aluise becomes the Executive Director of KIPP New Orleans Schools. KIPP New Orleans currently runs nine schools in the city, making it New Orleans’ largest charter management organization. KIPP New Orleans Schools was founded in 2005 and opened just months before Hurricane Katrina made landfall in the city. For more than 15 years, this organization has remained committed to the students and families of New Orleans.
“Through Teach for America I learned of the power of teachers. Educators do it all. We impart. We inspire and we ignite. Molding sharp minds extends beyond the four walls of a classroom, as we are committed to serving our students, our student’s families, and their communities. This has been particularly true while navigating the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic. Teach for America helped me hone the skills needed to make tough decisions quickly and meet challenges head-on with intensity and rigor. Teach for America invested in me and as a leader and I am intentional in investing in our educators. It’s imperative to maintain a sense of community and belonging for all. The rewards have been great and, with the success of each student, the payoff has been huge. Our work has become more important than ever.”
Five Teach For America teachers in St. Bernard Parish found Youth Run NOLA, a nonprofit that introduces students to distance running as a conduit for personal growth and leadership development. Throughout the school year, students are introduced to running, and practice with teams at their schools or parks across the community. At the end of the year, their effort culminates in the running of the Crescent City Classic.
"Teach For America helped instill in me a life-long commitment to equitable outcomes for all kids: education, health, wealth. All these disparities are so deeply entangled, and TFA has helped me build awareness around my privileges and roles in helping combat them. For the past decade, Youth Run NOLA, which we started as a group of TFA teachers, has seen a transfer of leadership to alumni of our program. Young people in our program are driving and sustaining the program, and we're so proud of them for truly running this team."
In 2010, at the request of the Louisiana Department of Education, Teach For America opens its Louisiana Delta region, beginning to place corps members in East Carroll Parish, Madison Parish, and Tensas Parish. The need is considerable - the average ACT scores in this area of the state are 15-18, versus a national average and college-ready bar of 21, indicating far too many students are well below the college-ready mark when they leave high school. Ultimately, this means that only 1 in 10 of all adults across the region have a college degree, with only 1 in 20 Black adults completing college.
"The Louisiana Delta is an incredibly special place, despite having some of the highest rates of children growing up in poverty across the country. Like many rural areas, many of the school systems experience challenges in recruiting and retaining teachers for their classrooms, so we were honored to be welcomed into the community and to partner with them to provide the best education possible for their kids."
“TFA instilled in me the belief that adults have the both the power and responsibility to work towards creating and maintaining great schools for all students. Each of of us is individually responsible for working towards change in our own classroom, school and/or larger community, and together we can accomplish great things. While other people just lament the status quo, TFA corps members and alumni work towards changing it, and I remain proud to be associated with folks who daily exemplify the belief that we can and will make change in the world.”
In 2013, Eric Lavin becomes CEO Whetstone Education, a digital platform that school leaders can use to manage teacher coaching, evaluation, and assessment. Libby Fischer takes over as CEO in 2014.
"I can’t begin to count the ways that TFA helped me grow as a leader, but the most impactful has been helping me understand that a leader’s role is to guide others as they do their work, rather than doing their work for them. My experience as a teacher with Teach For America has helped me to identify those times when I am getting the itch to take over a situation out of fear that I’m not doing enough, and to redirect myself to humbly step back and let my team - brought together for their unique expertise - work through the problem."
TFA alumna Andrea Chen founds Propeller, a nonprofit that grows and supports entrepreneurs to tackle social and environmental disparities in economic development, education, food, health, and water. Propeller's vision is to create an inclusive and thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem in New Orleans that responds to community needs and creates the conditions for an equitable future.
TFA GNO Executive Director Kira Orange Jones is elected to the Louisiana State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education and John White, a Teach For America alumnus, becomes superintendent of the Recovery School District in 2011. The following year, he becomes the Louisiana State Superintendent of Education and Sarah Usdin is elected to the Orleans Parish School Board.
"Teach For America is an engine for entrepreneurship, diversity, and compassion in our region and state. So much of the most important work taking place on behalf of Louisiana's historically disadvantaged young people is being led by corps members and alumni. I am proud to call myself a TFA alumnus."
In response to a deeper study into the need for a diversified teaching force for Black, indigenous, and students of color, Teach For America undertakes an audit of its recruitment practices. As an organization, there is an increased focus on diversifying the corps to include approximately 40-50% teachers of color, making it the leading provider of teachers of color in the state. There is an increased emphasis on community engagement and culturally-relevant pedagogy, locally led by Kira Orange Jones and member of the TFA GNO team. An example of this leadership by then staff member Joy Okoro (Greater New Orleans, '11) helps to start the Greater New Orleans chapter of The Collective, Teach For America’s national association for alumni of color.
“As teacher demographics in New Orleans shifted after Hurricane Katrina, fewer of our majority Black students could look to the front of the classroom and see a teacher who looks like them. Knowing that teachers who share the background of their students have potential for profound impact, Teach For America Greater New Orleans prioritized building a more diverse teaching corps. We believe that we need leaders who share the racial and economic backgrounds of our students as well as those who do not yet are committed to advocating for the students and families we serve." Kira Orange Jones
TFA alumnus Josh Densen opens Bricolage Academy, a K-8 school that advances educational equity by preparing students from diverse backgrounds to be innovators who change the world.
“I am proud of the many ways our diverse community has come together. We’ve built relationships and created a sense of belonging across lines of difference to start the school, relocate three times, and grow into one of the highest performing open enrollment schools in New Orleans.”
Rooted School began in 2014. First, as a 15 student pilot in New Orleans. Inspired by the growth of living-wage jobs in the region, his experiences teaching in Central City, and growing up living paycheck-to-paycheck, Jonathan Johnson believed there was more that could be done to lift those on the lower rungs of the economic ladder up in their lifetime
"Through Teach For America, I've built a network of cross-sector leaders who have the courage to continuously ask what more can we do to move the needle further and faster for communities we serve. Rarely have I found a group of leaders willing to ask the tough questions, work the long hours, and take the unprecedented risks to make truly ambitious dreams a reality. These are the leaders our communities need now. I hope we continue to give them a chance."
In 2015, Teach For America alumna Liz Marcell Williams launched the The New Orleans Therapeutic Day Program in response to the lack of adequate services and placements for children with moderate to severe mental and/or behavioral health needs in New Orleans. In 2018, it became the Center for Resilience, Louisiana's only therapeutic day program/partial hospital program, providing educational and intensive mental health supports to ensure the emotional well-being and academic readiness of children with emotional health and trauma-related needs in the Greater New Orleans region. Children receive instructional, medical, and therapeutic services at our day program site on the campus of Children's Hospital, with the goal of building the skills to successfully transition back to the traditional school setting.
"My unexpected assignment to teach special education inspired in me what has now been a 20+ year professional passion to ensure all children receive a high-quality education that meets all of their needs - academic, social/emotional, behavioral, adaptative, functional, etc. - and focuses on meaningful outcomes for them.
Teach For America alumnus Aaron Frumin founds UnCommon Construction, a nonprofit organization that provides high school students with hands-on construction apprenticeships by building houses in New Orleans.
“Today, I’m most proud that we just hired our first alumni as an independent subcontractor, supporting him as he starts his landscaping business while also working full time for an industry partner. My experience with Teach for America taught me so many things about myself, equity, leadership, and empathy. What it’s taught me about entrepreneurship is how to be ready to let yourself and others down. To learn your lessons, but not beat yourself up by coming up short because that’s bound to happen. And to always start the next day ready to do better.”
Teach For America alumnus Cate Swinburn founds Youthforce NOLA, which aims to support young adults in crossing the bridge from education to career. YouthForce coaches schools to create pathways programs, enlists employers to advise on programming and create workplaces where young employees of color feel included and can equally advance. YouthForce also supports training providers to expand programming to include youth; and engages families and community members to help young people make decisions.
“For years, I worked to support education reforms in rural and urban Texas (where I was a corps member), New York City, Washington, D.C., and New Orleans. In each of these locations, I collaborated closely with fellow TFA alumni. While these reforms improved academic scores and graduation rates for low-income students of color, they weren’t translating to post-high school success for most students. The creation of YouthForce NOLA was the next phase of my journey as a TFA alumna — advancing a collaborative effort in service of a vision we can all get behind: that New Orleans public school graduates will thrive economically, and be the most sought after talent for hiring and advancement in our region’s high-wage career pathways.”
New Orleans native Gary Briggs joined the Greater New Orleans corps in 2011 and taught at Harriet Tubman Charter School for four years. He was the first staff hire at EdNavigator, a parent advocacy organization that partners with businesses to provide local families with personalized support along the path from preschool to college. In 2019, Gary was one of 10 leaders to be chosen by the Victory Institute for their Empowerment Fellowship, a year-long program that prepares LGBTQ leaders of color and transgender leaders for roles in public office.
“When I realized some of my former teachers had been corps members, I wasn’t surprised because they were some of my favorite teachers and had left a lasting impression on me... I didn’t join TFA for the prestige. I joined because I wanted to teach. I am so grateful to TFA for helping to make that happen.”
Teach For America alumna Claire Heckerman founds Laureate Academy, a K-8 charter school in Jefferson Parish focused on preparing its students for rigorous high schools, competitive colleges, and professional careers.
Teach For America unveiled its "Foundations" document that included updates to its core values, tenets, and approach to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. As the organization grew and had several years to examine its impact and role in the movement for educational equity and excellence, it became clear that an internal assessment was needed in order for Teach For America to fully support it's role as a leader in the transformation of our nation's education system. Through a rigorous and collaborative process, the updated core values of the organization became: Pursue Equity; Strengthen Community; Achieve Impact; Choose Courage; Act With Humility; Demonstrate Resilience; and Learn Continuously.
In 2017, TFA GNO, along with Xavier University, Loyola University, The New Teacher Project, New Schools for New Orleans, and the Relay Graduate School of Education are awarded a three-year, $13 million grant from the US Department of Education to recruit, prepare and develop nearly 900 teachers in New Orleans.
Kunjan Narechania (North Carolina, ’00) becomes the leader of the RSD to oversee the unification of schools in New Orleans and statewide school improvement efforts under the new Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).
In 2017, Dr. Melanie Askew started Elan Academy with the mission to provide students with a classical curriculum, high-quality instruction, and leadership development. In 2015, Dr. Askew started a journey towards founding Élan. She spent two years canvassing Orleans to learn what our community wanted in a school. She traveled across the country visiting over 40 top performing charter schools to learn from leaders in education.
"TFA allowed me to transition into the field of education and pursue my certification. I taught as a founding first-grade teacher at an elementary charter school. Teaching opened my eyes to the impact that strong attention to data can have on an educator's ability to impact student achievement. It also exposed me to the founding process of a charter school. After several years of high-performing classroom data, I joined TFA staff to coach incoming CMs. Both experiences provided leadership development and experience that...prepared me to open Élan Academy in New Orleans. During Élan's second year and our first year of testing, our scholars outperformed both the state and the district in all subjects; math, ELA, science, and social studies."
The Louisiana Delta region closes at the end of the 2018 school year. After eight years, Teach For America corps members and alumni have made an indelible impact on Northern Louisiana, including 10 district teachers of the year and 2013 corps member Jennifer Jeffers being named as a finalist for Louisiana teacher of the year in 2016. In addition, because of corps members leadership, over 50 students traveled to Costa Rica for a Spanish immersion trips, two drama departments were created, five after-school ACT prep organizations created, two soccer programs created, and 15+ colleges visits were led by corps members.
“Our corps members were so invested in the community. Other than basketball, football, cheerleading, and band, there weren’t any extracurriculars. But TFA brought external networks of people who want to help and that infuses all these donations into the community. Corps members stepping up and starting art clubs, a drama department – we put on school plays in communities that hadn’t seen plays in 30 or 40 years. We expanded the types of instruments that the school band could play. One corps member built a school garden at Newellton Elementary, where half of the building is condemned. One took her students to Costa Rica three summers in a row – she fundraised, got kids passports, took them on escalators and airplanes; a lot of them had never even seen an escalator before.”
Teach For America's PRISM coalition is a network of LGBTQ+ support groups that work on behalf of LGBTQ+ students and educators in each Teach For America region. After concluding an impactful inaugural year, the GNO regional Prism coalition was invited to host the 2019 Greater New Orleans Brave Education Summit with the goal of mobilizing LGBTQ+ leaders and our allies in the movement for educational equity and empowerment for the children and communities we serve.
"In order for students to thrive, our schools must be safe and inclusive spaces where every student feels that they belong. The reality is that many lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer students report being harassed and feeling unsafe at school. This is unacceptable, so we set out to address it. We launched the Teach For America Greater New Orleans PRISM coalition to provide our corps members, alumni, and partners with additional professional development and community support that’s focused on meeting the needs of LGBTQ+ students."
Jennifer Dennis Carey was recognized as the 2020 Louisiana Principal of the Year by the State of Louisiana’s Department of Education for her work at KIPP East Community Primary.
“First off, without Teach For America, I never would have become a teacher. I think that TFA made me love teaching and being part of a school community. Being a corps member helped me see the disparities between the education opportunities that different students are offered. I became aware of how often black and brown kids are set up to fail. These realizations setme on a different path as a leader. KIPP East Community Primary has a zero-suspension policy. Just like we teach our students division and close-reading, we also help them grow in their ability to work with others, to persevere through hard problems, and to be proud of themselves. Our school is one of the highest performing open-enrollment schools in the city, and it’s because we don’t give up on kids.”
On March 13, 2020, Governor John Bel Edwards orders all public schools to close due to COVID-19 effective the following Monday. Schools will remain closed for the rest of the school year, and state testing and accountability measures are waived because of the pandemic. School leaders immediately pivot to provide virtual instruction and ensure that students' most basic needs are being met. However, due to the suddenness of school closures and the decentralized nature of New Orleans schools, instruction varies widely for students across the region.
"When I think back on the pandemic and the movement around racial equity, I feel like it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to step back and imagine how to transform something. There were so many people reimagining what a school can be, leveraging technology differently, and rethinking what the role of a teacher actually is. And yet, we haven’t made any big changes to how we approach school. I hope we don’t orient just to going back to normal and that we can continue to shift our perspectivest to building new systems. The pandemic taught us that we can do school differently, and I think we need to stay on that train."
Members of the TFA community respond to the pandemic in a myriad of ways. Jacob Landry, founder of Urban South Brewing Company, shifts his operations to make hand sanitizer in response to the pandemic.
In 2019, TFA alumnae Myralis King and Avione Pichon found Community Academies of New Orleans, a new charter management organization that runs four schools across the city that were previously managed by the Choice Foundation and Foundation Prep. Foundation Prep was the first elementary school in New Orleans to start with Restorative Practices, and is currently the only school in the parish that has a comprehensive three-tiered trauma informed, restorative practice program. Foundation Prep scored in the top 10% of city schools in its first year of state testing, and holds an School Performance Score (SPS) at the top 25% of the city’s elementary schools.
Teach For America spends the spring making important decisions about how to move forward during the pandemic, including whether to move forward in their current recruitment efforts for the 2020 corps. Leaders consulted with the Greater New Orleans team and alumni to gather lessons learned from after Hurricane Katrina to determine the best way to support corps members during and after a crisis. In order to prepare incoming corps members for the realities of teaching during a pandemic, the organization pivoted their annual Summer Institute to be entirely virtual for the first time in its history.
All public schools in Orleans Parish begin the 2020-2021 school year with virtual learning, while other schools across the state, including Jefferson and St. Bernard Parishes, adopt hybrid or fully in-person teaching models during the pandemic. By October, health officials in Orleans Parish allow for a return to in-person learning for families who so choose. Students, teachers, and families will transition back and forth between in-person and virtual learning environments four times over the course of the school year.
Jerel Bryant (Greater New Orleans, ’07), principal of G.W. Carver High School, is named 2021 Louisiana High School Principal of the Year. Ealier that year, Bryant was awarded Teach For America’s inaugural National Award for Excellence in School Leadership.
In an effort to provide school partners with additional teacher development resources while providing leadership opportunities for alumni, TFA GNO launches the the Alumni Coaching Fellowship. This unique program gives experienced TFA alumni educators an opportunity to grow as leaders in their schools by empowering them to provide hands-on coaching to first- and second-year corps members at their schools. Nine alumni and 21 corps members at seven schools participate in the program. This program is supported by Baptist Community Ministries, the College Football Playoff Foundation, and other key supporters.
“The Alumni Coaching Fellowship has been a gift professionally and personally. It has not only given me a community to be a part of, but also created space for me to reflect on my coaching practice and improve my skills and mindsets around coaching. I leave every training with both tangible action steps and extremely salient reflections. I feel grateful for the opportunity to continue my development through Teach For America as alumna.2020 Alumni Coaching Fellow
TFA Launches it’s 10-year goal, with the goal that by 2030, twice as many children in communities where we work will reach key educational milestones indicating they are on a path to economic mobility and co-creating a future filled with possibility.
Ge'ron Tatum is named the new Executive Director of TFA GNO. As a lifelong learner who developed his passion for education and equity at a young age as a student in Louisiana public schools, he has made it his life's mission to fight for educational equity for students and families from neighborhoods just like his. Tatum comes to TFA GNO as the former middle school principal of Phillis Wheatley Community School and brings 15 years of experience teaching students, coaching teachers, leading teams, and developing some of the city’s most dynamic leaders. He is also the devoted father of two children who are students in NOLA public schools.
The Booth-Bricker Fund
Doris & Donald Fisher Fund
Goldring Family Foundation & Woldenberg Foundation
The Walton Family Foundation
U.S. Department of Education
Pro Bono Publico Foundation
Baptist Community Ministries
Capital One Financial Corporation
Gustaf W. McIlhenny Foundation
The Selley Foundation
Allstate Sugar Bowl
The College Football Playoff Foundation Fund of the Dallas Foundation
The Ella West Freeman Foundation
Eugenie and Joseph Jones Family Foundation
Jones Walker L.L.P.
The Toler Foundation
Louise H. Moffett Family Foundation
United Way of Southeast Louisiana
Eason Weinmann Foundation
Lauricella Land Company Foundation
New Orleans City Council
Abramson Sci Academy
Andrew Wilson Charter School
Arthur Ashe Charter School
Booker T. Washington High School
Edna Karr High School
Einstein High School at Sara T. Reed
Eleanor McMain High School
FirstLine Live Oak Charter School
Foundation Preparatory Charter School
Frederick Douglass High School George Washington Carver High School
IDEA Oscar Dunn
International High School of New Orleans
John F. Kennedy High School
KIPP Believe Primary
KIPP Central City Academy
KIPP Central City Primary
KIPP East Academy
KIPP Leadership Academy
KIPP Leadership Primary
KIPP Morial Middle School
Livingston Collegiate Academy
McDonogh 35 High School
Mildred Osborne Charter School
Morris Jeff Community High School
New Orleans Accelerated High School
Phillis Wheatley Community School
ReNew Schaumburg Elementary School
ReNew SciTech Academy
Rosenwald Collegiate Academy
Samuel J. Green Charter School
Success Prep @ Thurgood Marshall
Warren Easton Charter High School
Langston Hughes Academy
Sophie B. Wright Charter School
ReNew Dolores T. Aaron Academy
The NET: Gentilly
KIPP Central City Academy
Lawrence D Crocker College Prep
Einstein Middle School
Young Audiences Charter School
Andrew Jackson Middle School
Chalmette High School
St. Bernard Middle School
First, let me say how honored I am to be a new member of this unique group of education professionals, equity advocates, committed parents, dedicated supporters, and community leaders who are working together to create a world in which our children are empowered to lead us into the future. I think about this every day as a former school principal and a parent. My kids attend a school run by one of the alumni who was featured in this report, Jennifer Dennis Carey. I am so grateful for her leadership and for the incredible school community that she and her team have built for me and my family.
I joined Teach For America Greater New Orleans as its executive director in July of 2020 after being inspired by its mission for many years. It’s through seeing the leadership of alumni like Jenny and from my experiences with many other TFA alumni and corps members that I first realized the exceptional impact that the leaders who have come through this organization have made on Louisiana. I am equally inspired by the organization’s 10-year goal that by 2030, twice as many children in communities where we work will reach key educational milestones indicating they are on a path to economic mobility and co-creating a future filled with possibility.
That word – “co-creating” – is key to the direction that Teach For America’s impact will take as we begin this decade. Co-creating a future together with our students can look like many things: It includes the work happening in classrooms across Greater New Orleans every day in which our amazing educators are opening the doors to new perspectives for their students; it looks like school leaders who are co-creating communities in which the students help guide the direction of their school and inform the decisions that drive their learning; it also looks like a community where the student voice is integral to community development and where co-creating opportunities for student leadership is vital to our city’s growth.
There are already so many examples of schools and organizations that have taken this approach to their work, and their impact is tangible. More students in Greater New Orleans are graduating and going on to college, professional training programs or profitable careers than ever before. As a part of our commitment to our 10-year goal, TFA GNO will be examining how we can be more intentional in co-creating with the students and families we serve, while also elevating the stories of our partners and alumni who are also doing this work.
As we continue to heal from the trauma of pandemics and hurricanes and the effects of the systemic inequities that continue to plague our country, we must also come together to co-create our own future as a community. I look forward to working alongside you as we continue to move towards the day when all children in this nation will have the opportunity to attain an excellent education.
Teach for America Greater New Orleans