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County likes ‘Teach’ program

In an effort to fill its classrooms with qualified teachers in core subjects, the Marengo County Board of Education has found an equitable partner in Teach For America.

Teach For America is a national corps of recent college graduates of all academic majors and career interests who commit two years to teach in urban and rural public schools and become leaders in the effort to expand educational opportunity.

Four such teachers have found their way into the county’s school system; three at Marengo High and one at John Essex.

“We’ve been very satisfied with the results,” county superintendent of education Luke Hallmark said. “It’s hard to find teachers these days in critical areas, like math and science.”

The county school system is entering the second year with the program, meaning the four teachers currently enrolled in the program and paid by the county will soon find themselves at a career crossroads.

“After two years (of service), it’s really up to them,” Hallmark said of retaining the teachers after the program ends. “Once they’ve satisfied their two year commitment, we’ll have the option of keeping them on going forward, or they’ll have the option to move on to something else.”

What that something else may be could be out of the classroom completely. Many of the participants in Teach For America do not have an educational background.

“A lot of the kids in the program see (teaching) as a way to give back,” Hallmark said. “It’s an opportunity for them to go into these rural areas and put something into those communities before they go off and do whatever it is they want to do.”

Hallmark said the varying backgrounds of the participants are one of the things that made a partnership with the program enticing.

“A lot of these kids have degrees in something that’s not teaching,” he said.

“They are taught through the program how to be an effective classroom teacher but their background may be in a core subject.”

Even though the hiring process for these teachers may be considered non-traditional, Hallmark said the expectations for them are the same as some of the county’s longest tenured instructors: Excellence.

“They’ve got to perform in the classroom,” he said. “We go into (the agreement) asking them to give us two really, really good years. After that, we’ll see where to go.”

So far, at least two of the county’s Teach For America instructors have but in a hard and tough one year of work.

Ashley Buckelew, a second grade teacher at John Essex, worked with teachers and a local donor to establish a majorette and flag team and drum corps. They will hit the field for the first time this upcoming football season.

Immediately following the tornado outbreak in April, Marengo High School teacher Caleb Hill took several students to a neighborhood just outside of Linden to aid in clean up and recovery efforts.

With results reflecting in and out of the classroom, Hallmark said there was little doubt that the county would continue with the program.