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'' It was just hard for me to take it all in.'' The director of the summer institute, Abigail Smith, who taught for two years in rural North Carolina, acknowledged that ''the environment is incredibly intense; potentially, it's too intense.'' She and Ms. Rather, they say the institute is supposed to persuade recruits to take responsibility for their own professional development, to seek out mentor teachers, to ferret curriculum resources, to lean on corps alumni for support and to take classes at local universities.
'' I think Teach for America has suffered from the fact that I did not teach, in a major way.
Kopp, now 33, said when asked why she never tried the classroom herself.
Her recipe is simple: Good teachers are good leaders, people who can move children from point A to point B.'' It's possible to train great people, but a person with great training who doesn't have certain characteristics is only going to go so far,'' Ms. When observing effective teachers, she said, '' I feel like I'm not watching the equivalent of surgery, where the key thing is the precision of every single movement.'' Basically, management and leadership ability is what I see,'' she said.
'' It's what it takes to succeed in my role, in any role at the head of an organization.
Kopp has spawned a movement of teachers -- people who never planned a career in education, in many cases never even considered it. Questions of teacher quality are at the crux of the education debate, but there is little consensus on what produces pedagogical success.
I also think if I had taught, I wouldn't have started Teach for America.'' Since her big idea became a reality, the teacher shortage it attempts to address has gone from gaping to gargantuan: the nation is expected to need 2.5 million new teachers by 2010.
To the critics who chafe at the notion of know-it-all Ivy Leaguers cycling through schools on two-year tours, Ms. The numbers, though, may be skewed; they are from a survey to which half the alumni responded, and it would seem likely that fewer teachers than, say, investment bankers, have lost touch with the organization.
In any case, the retention rate is far below the national average.
She would rather it focus on, for example, Verdel Baskin, who was making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich to teach his seventh graders the importance of sequential steps when she took some potential donors to visit his classroom in the South Bronx last spring.
Or perhaps on Mark Levine, who quit teaching after two years in Washington Heights but has returned to the neighborhood to open a credit union; or Bill Norbert, who talked about his teaching experience as he campaigned door to door before his 1998 election to the legislature in Maine. Kopp ended up writing a thesis proposing a national teacher corps in which she expressed her dual goals: To get bright young missionaries into some of the nation's neediest classrooms and to create a cadre of civic leaders conscious of the challenges of education and poverty. The statistics are practically the first thing out of her mouth at every meeting: 40 percent of Teach for America alumni are still teaching and an additional 20 percent remain in education.