'Teach For America' Making A Difference At Tulsa Public Schools

Wednesday, August 25th 2010, 9:03 pm
By: News On 6

By Ashli Sims, The News On 6

TULSA, OKLAHOMA -- Tulsa Public Schools drafted some new recruits for its teaching ranks last year. Teach for America stepped in with 70 rookies and deployed them to Tulsa classrooms.

Teach for America's footprint in Tulsa is bigger this year. And some say the teachers themselves are making a bigger impact.

8/20/2009 Related Story: 'Teach For America' Teachers Start Work In Tulsa

Last year he was a fresh face. This year, Mark Freudenheim is an old hand.

"Definitely different this year, more prepared, more confident," Freudenheim said.

Mr. F, as the kids call him, was one of 76 brand-new teachers from Teach For America last fall. The program recruits some of the nation's best and brightest to teach in at-risk schools across the country.

"Very enthusiastic, very willing to learn, very willing to take correction," said Dr. Phyllis Lovett, Gilcrease Principal.

Some critics of the program worried how teachers new to the profession would handle classrooms that experienced teachers struggle to reach.

"They are needy and they deserve people who want to be with them and want to teach them and show them a way. So that's what I think I found in these Teach for America teachers," Dr. Lovett said.

Lovett says these young teachers are connecting with students on a different level. And where some might throw up their hands:

"They take the opposite end and they continue to believe in the kids even if they meet with resistance from the students," she said. "They don't give up on these students."

Freudenheim says he challenged his students and they pushed him to be a better teacher.

"When I showed that confidence, they then raised the bar on me. So I had to raise the bar for them," he said. "And it just got better and better and better."

TPS added 58 new Teach for America recruits this year, bringing the total to 129. They did have a handful not return to the program, but it's less than five percent.