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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 Sixteen: From 106th to 41st, One Chicagoan’s Experience with Teach For America and Chicago Public Schools



From 106th to 41st, One Chicagoan’s Experience with Teach For America and Chicago Public Schools

RYAN GARZA Chicago, 2011–2013


Ryan Garza was born and raised on the South Side of Chicago. The son of a Chicago Public Schools (CPS) teacher and a city ironworker, Ryan quickly learned the importance of unions. After attending Chicago Public Schools for 17 years, he graduated from the University of Wisconsin–Madison with a bachelor’s degree in political science. Ryan taught seventh and eighth grade social studies for 2 years at Bronzeville Lighthouse Charter School.


“Unions are the reason why our public schools are failing” were some of the first words out of my executive director’s mouth on Induction night. Josh Anderson, the son of the senior advisor to Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, proceeded to rant about the diabolical nature of teacher unions, specifically the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU). From that moment until my final days with Teach For America (TFA), I was continuously intimidated, shunned, and criticized for my union beliefs and anti-charter sentiments.

TFA undermined my ambitions to be placed in a traditional public school from the very beginning—I was ultimately placed in a charter school. However, ← 163 | 164 → it became increasingly clear that it wasn’t nonprofit bureaucracy that determined my placement, but rather a larger strategic neoliberal partnership between TFA and corporate interests that want to systematically replace traditional public schools...

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