Teach for America: An Interview with Riyaz Gayasaddin '08


The Mac Weekly sat down with Riyaz Gayasaddin ’08, recently placed in Baltimore with Teach for America to find out what Teach for America is all about. The organization began in 1990 in responce to educational equality injustices and placed 500 teachers. In 2008, there are 3,700 teachers across the U.S.

The Mac Weekly: What is Teach for America?

Riyaz Gayasaddin: Teach For America (TFA) is a non-profit organization, part of Americorps, whose mission is “to build the movement to eliminate educational inequity by enlisting our nation’s most promising future leaders in the effort.” TFA recruits top recent college graduates from all majors and career interests to teach for at least two years in urban and rural low-income public schools. TFA fights for the right of an equal education for all and makes sure to hold all students to the same high standard. It does not matter if they live in a poor, urban area or a rich, middle-class, white, suburban one-all students should have to be held to nothing but the best.

TMW: What kinds of opportunities does TFA offer?

RG: TFA as an organization offers the opportunity to become a fully, highly, qualified teacher by providing professional development and graduate courses. Many of the placement sites have partnerships with different universities and colleges in the area to provide corps members with graduates courses to obtain your Masters in the Arts of Teaching (MAT). For example, here in Baltimore, my placement, I am obtaining my MAT in Science at John Hopkins University (JHU). With the help of the school district and the provided Americorps money, I will be able to get a MAT in Science for the price of nothing.

TMW: What do people learn from the experiences of TFA?

RG: Being part of this organization that allows students to put action to words. Throughout my years at Macalester, class discussions focused on change and coming up with ideas to help others. TFA has allowed me to implement what I had only learned in theory. I believe that closing the achievement gap is possible and can occur in our lifetime. I hope to contribute in solving the devastating problem of education inequality in poverty stricken areas. Every student has a right to equal opportunities. During my life, I have been given a fair opportunity for successful education. These experiences have not only taught me about academics, but also have helped me discover myself.

TMW: Any other thoughts or comments not addressed that -you would like to add?

RG: If you want a challenge and to grow as a person, TFA is the right place for you. It is stressful, full of lesson planning, grading, student misbehavior and struggles in the classroom. But in the end of the day, I look back and know if my students, who live in a toxic environment, do not have an outlet to guide them, they will end up on the streets or in jail. It’s a statistic that is mind blowing, especially for young black males. I am here for my students day in and day out, no matter how difficult they can be sometimes.