Urban School Program Takes Off In Tulsa Public Schools

Thursday, November 3rd 2011, 6:04 pm
By: News On 6

Ashli Sims, News On 6

TULSA, Oklahoma -- A group of fresh faces showed up from all over to teach in Tulsa classrooms three years ago.

Tulsa Public Schools says the Teach for America program hasn't just taken root in the district, it's expanding.

Chase Hendricks wants his students to remember that each of them can change the world.

"That's something that we pour into our kids when they enter, that you can do this. And people may think that you can't do this. But you can do this," Hendricks said.

Hendricks wasn't trained as a teacher. The Atlanta, Georgia native studied theology at ORU. He was volunteering in North Tulsa when he ran across Teach for America.

"It's one of those opportunities where I could serve the kids that I'm already falling in love with, and stay in the community and become part of this amazing movement of change," he said.

Teach for America or TFA recruits some of the best and brightest college graduates to teach in urban school districts. The program is in its third year in Tulsa with 270 members teaching across the state.

"My first year was I'll say a huge learning curve," Hendricks said.  "A 6th grader was reading on about a first or second grade level when she entered my room. When she left my classroom, she was reading two grade levels ahead of when she entered."

This summer, Tulsa will host a five-week summer boot camp that will draw hundreds of TFA recruits to TU's campus.

They'll train with veteran Tulsa teachers and run a summer school for 3-to-4,000 Tulsa students.

"We've never been able to offer summer school at that scale in a city. This is 650 people who will be here working relentlessly for our kids," said Lance Hackett, Oklahoma Teach for America.

And TFA says even after these teachers two-year commitments are up, they're sticking around.