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Teach For America Counter-Narratives

Alumni Speak Up and Speak Out


Edited By Jameson T. Brewer and Kathleen deMarrais

In its twenty-five years of existence, Teach For America (TFA) has transformed from an organization based on a perceived need to ameliorate a national teacher shortage to an organization that seeks to systematically replace traditional fully-certified teachers while simultaneously producing alumni who are interested in facilitating neoliberal education reform through elected political positions. From its inception, TFA has had its share of critics; yet criticism of the organization by its own members and alumni has largely been silenced and relegated to the margins.
This book – the first of its kind – provides alumni of TFA with the opportunity to share their insight on the organization. And perhaps more importantly, this collection of counter-narratives serves as a testament that many of the claims made by TFA are, in fact, myths that ultimately hurt teachers and students. No longer will alumni voices be silenced in the name of corporate and neoliberal education reform.
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Chapter Twelve: “I Always Finish Everything”: The Challenge of Living Up to My TFA Commitment



“I Always Finish Everything”: The Challenge of Living Up to My TFA Commitment

MONICA CHEN New Mexico, 2012–2014


Monica Chen graduated from UC Berkeley, where she created her own major in environmental education and public policy. Her primary schooling included Waldorf, single-sex, and public schools. As a high school senior, she homeschooled herself, took community college classes, and began working as a docent at the Hidden Villa wilderness preserve in Los Altos, California. In 2011 she worked at Outward Bound in Costa Rica and later helped cofound Wild Child Freeschool—an outdoor nature program for homeschoolers in Silicon Valley. Her main interests include humane/environmental education, animal rights, equitable admissions policies, the anti-commercialization of childhood, and challenging corporate personhood. Upon joining the TFA New Mexico corps in 2012, she was placed as a third grade teacher at a Bureau of Indian Education school on the Navajo reservation approximately 45 minutes northeast of Gallup, New Mexico. She received her master’s in elementary education from the University of New Mexico.


Looking back, I know the exact moment the decision was made to accept me into Teach For America (TFA). During my final interview in 2011, I was sweetly ← 119 | 120 → asked, “Can you think of any reason you wouldn’t fulfill your 2-year commitment?” My swift response was, “Oh no, I always finish everything I commit to.” My interviewer smiled as she jotted down my answer. What...

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