'Teach For America' Teachers Start Work In Tulsa

Thursday, August 20th 2009, 11:20 pm
By: News On 6

By Ashli Sims, The News On 6

TULSA, OK -- Thousands of Tulsa Public School students have the first day of school under their belt.  And, TPS has more than 70 teachers not only new to the district, but new to the profession.

06/23/2009 Related Story: Teach For America Teachers Arrive In Tulsa

Teachers and staff members at Gilcrease Middle School were all smiles on their first day and a class picture features quite a few fresh faces.

"I had it specifically set in mind that I wanted to work in Minneapolis," said Mark Freudenheim with Teach for America.

Mark Freudenheim is one of 76 teachers from Teach for America, the organization that recruits some of the nation's best and brightest to teach in at-risk schools across the country.  He says he had no idea he'd end up in Tulsa, after graduating from Emory University.

"So when they called me and said, ‘We don't have Minneapolis. We've got Oklahoma.' So, I had to go to my map and had to see where Oklahoma was and see where Tulsa was," jokingly said Mark Freudenheim with Teach for America.

Freudenheim was armed with a road map for teaching, after a summer of intense training.  Now, he's got six classes of sixth-grade science students.

"When I was filling out my attendance sheet my hand was shaking.  That may have been because I had about eight cups of coffee or cause I was nervous," said Mark Freudenheim.

Gilcrease has been a school on edge for years.  The district staged an intervention at the middle school last year, after discipline referrals tripled and half a dozen teachers jumped ship half-way through the year.

Dr. Phyllis Lovett took the helm this year and says she welcomes the new blood.

"The teachers I have here are just as good as the best teachers I've been able to find throughout the course of my career," said Gilcrease Principal Dr. Phyllis Lovett.

Freudenheim says it didn't take long for the adrenaline and training to kick in.

"We've done so much preparation, so much work to get ready for the first day. And, this administration has been absolutely incredible in getting ready for the first day," said Mark Freudenheim.

Teach for America's goal is to help close the racial achievement gap in schools across the country.  This is their first year in Oklahoma.

The teachers commit to being in Tulsa for at least two years.