Tuesday, August 23, 2011

This is what TFA Puget Sound Looks Like. Vol 1

Olympia local, University of Puget Sound grad, and Western Washington University Teacher steps up to Teach For Seattle.
Emily Ehrlich
1st year TFA Corps Member Seattle/Puget sound

Connection to Washington State: I grew up in Olympia, went to college at University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, lived in Seattle and worked at the Elliott Bay Book Company, worked at schools all over the Puget Sound region and at a library on the Olympic Peninsula, then got a Master’s in English from Western Washington University in Bellingham.  So my connection to Washington is very deep!  I love Washington, and can’t imagine ever leaving.

Why do you teach for Seattle?  I teach for Seattle because I want to give back to my community.  I am deeply committed to ensuring that everyone has the wonderful educational opportunities that our state has given me, and teaching is the best way I can do that.

How did you get involved in education? Literacy is my life.  Anyone who knows me can tell you that the stacks of books and journals piled around my apartment are probably going to fall down and crush me someday.  I started teaching with a company called the Institute of Reading Development, which offers intensive summer reading programs to students aged four through adult, because it just kills me that there are students out there who don’t like reading because it is hard for them.  I wanted to give them the tools to be better readers, so that they could experience the joy of learning through reading.  My students benefited so much from intensive reading instruction, and I loved going to work every day.  I decided to pursue a Master of Arts degree in English Studies because I wanted to deepen my own understanding of the subject I now knew I wanted to teach for life.  As a fully funded graduate student at Western Washington University, I taught five quarters of English 101, Writing and Critical Inquiry, and one quarter of English 347, Young Adult Literature.  Teaching at the college levels has allowed me to really understand what level of reading, writing, and critical thinking skills are necessary for students to be on the path to success in college.  I want to bring that knowledge and experience to students in public schools.

What are your hopes for schools in the Puget Sound?  My hope for schools in the Puget Sound is very realistic.  I know it is realistic because I have experienced it myself, and a lot of students experience it every day—that all students emerging from schools in the Puget Sound region can be proud of their education, and can make the choice to pursue further education. 


  1. I think you'll be great. Good luck!

  2. Good luck! The whole community wishes you success.

  3. Contrary to what is apparently popular opinion in our apparently not-as-progressive-as-I'd thought community, Teach for America teachers do excellent work. These are not your sorority girls looking to pad a resume; these are well-qualified individuals who work hard to earn their positions and work even harder to do well once placed in them. How do I know this? TFA makes sure it happens. Operating as they do outside the slow, bureaucratic and somewhat closed circuit of the public school system, TFA is uniquely suited to identify what's working in education and what's not, and to respond quickly. Need proof? See what The Atlantic had to say: http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2010/01/what-makes-a-great-teacher/7841/

  4. Don't give up! If I had a say in who taught my kids it would be you guys.

  5. Fantastic! Keep up the great work. Sending good vibes and wishing you guys a ton of success!

  6. Odd but when Dean Stritikus spoke to UW CoE students, he told them he would pick them over any TFA recruit to teach his own children.

  7. Nice, I have yet to truly come across this type of TFA propaganda. Please, remember in two years when you all leave, that you will not, have not made any impact.

    Also, take advice I was given when I started teaching, Keep your ears open and your mouths shut. Just because you come from elite colleges does not mean you know it all.

  8. @Melissa Westbrook –

    I assume you’re alluding to the apparent contradiction between Stritikus’ comments to the UW CoE students and his affiliation with and support for TFA. I suppose that might fairly be seen as disingenuous, though I wouldn’t necessarily characterize a questionable statement by an educational administrator as “odd.” I gather that you’re just riffing on Cheng’s comment, rather than implying that Emily, as a TFA teacher—and, I daresay, a very conscientious one with a substantial amount of practical experience—should somehow be held accountable for Stritikus’ remarks.

    Good luck to Emily et al. If I had kids, I’d rather have them taught by you than by Stritikus. Or by Bronx Teacher, though I suppose that goes without saying. Don't give up!

  9. No use for realists, James?

    TFA is a scam.

  10. Not riffing at all. Not holding anyone accountable but if you say TFA is a good thing here, then you have to wonder about the Dean's statement.

    I was just stating what a person with educational power said about TFA recruits. That he has done everything he could to bring TFA to Seattle and yet wouldn't have his own kids in a class (if he had the choice between TFA and his own students), well, I consider that odd.

    Or maybe inconsistent is better. Or disingenuous.

    Take your pick.

  11. Emily . . . I hope you have great success.

    I have my problems with the concept of TFA in general, especially since I think it's a mistake to put the least experienced teachers in the schools that house the most needy, but it sounds as though you'll make a wonderful teacher.

    I hope you realize that much of the concern about TFA is not about the individual teachers who have chosen this route, such as yourself, but more about Seattle not lacking for qualified and certified teachers who have put in their time in the trenches already. In addition, in general TFA teachers stay for 2 years and then move on; this is incredibly disruptive, especially to those students for whom continuity is so important. Lastly, many TFA teachers end up teaching outside of their particular field of study. For example, while you might be incredibly qualified to teach english, I don't think you would be the best choice for middle school math. Unfortunately, that's where some TFA teachers are being placed which is unfair to those students AND unfair to the experienced teachers who need to mentor.

    If you really want to show your dedication to the schools and the students of Seattle, make a 5-10 year commitment to stay in one place.