Teach for Georgia provides outreach in rural communities

Tech students currently in the midst of their academic careers are poised not only on the precipice of graduation but also, if they so desire, on the threshold of making a full-time contribution to the disadvantaged sectors of their communities.
The Teach for Georgia (TFG) program offers Tech graduates an opportunity to teach students in rural Georgia high schools. Unaffiliated with Teach for America and AmeriCorps, TFG was recently established under the Georgia Race to the Top Innovation Fund, and provides college graduates in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) with the opportunity to spend two years teaching in a rural high schools.
Georgia Public schools are currently experiencing a shortage of qualified STEM teachers.
“If you just go on the teaching job boards for the state, and if you just watch the job postings scroll, it’s chemistry, physics, science. You can just see visually where the needs are,” said Susan Belmonte, Tech’s pre-teaching advisor.
In Georgia high schools during the 2007-2008 school year, only 36.8 percent of chemistry teachers and 21.6 percent of physical science teachers held both a degree and a certification in the subject they taught.
“One of the great things about students who go through Tech is that they graduate with top-notch degrees in the STEM fields. What we can offer the community and the state are highly-trained, qualified individuals who have deep knowledge of their content, and if you read generalities about the state of STEM education in the country, that’s one of the greatest problems,” Belmonte said.
TFG offers a unique opportunity for students interested in giving back to their communities after graduating.
“If you have two years of time that you want to dedicate to service, if you’re interested in teaching, and if you have a STEM degree, why not apply to Teach for Georgia?” Belmonte said.
Admission to TFG places applicants into a pool of candidates from which local school systems hire teachers. Although employment is not guaranteed, acceptance into the program puts graduates into close contact with administrators who make hiring decisions.
“It’s a two-year commitment. We’re not asking anyone in the program to sign your life over to becoming a teacher. You are serving the communities that are in greatest need for two years. After your service, if you choose to stay on, that’s great, but if you choose not to stay on, that’s also okay,” Belmonte said.
In addition to offering service opportunities, TFG also backs graduates financially on their road to obtaining the necessary qualifications required of Georgia educators. After passing the Georgia Assessment for the Certification of Educators exam relevant to their specific field, graduates must undergo training programs and coursework while serving in their teaching positions.
“In order to become a certified teacher, you have to take thirty hours of [teacher certification] coursework. We will pay for you either to take just the coursework or for you to go into a Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) [program] which includes the coursework plus graduate-level content courses. When you graduate from [a MAT program], you end up with a master’s degree and a teacher certification,” Belmonte said.
TFG also covers the cost of the GRE and professional development during the teaching term.
Belmonte advises that interested students contact her and look for dates of upcoming information sessions to be announced soon.