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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 Six: Teach for Ambivalence, Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love to Teach



Teach for Ambivalence, Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love to Teach

MATTHEW LYNDE CHESNUT San Antonio, 2011–2013


Matthew Lynde Chesnut is a high school teacher and a former Teach For America corps member in San Antonio, Texas. A San Antonio native, he began teaching in 2010 in Edgewood Independent School District at John F. Kennedy High School a year prior to joining TFA, then completed 2 years at the same school with TFA. Now in his fifth year with Kennedy, he continues to teach math, debate, and journalism. He lives with his wife, Michelle, and their son, Benjamin. Matthew graduated in 2008 from the University of Texas at San Antonio with a B.A. in political science and economics.


This chapter uses memoir to explore the shift in ideology of a Teach For America (TFA) alum. This story begins with my first job in the alternative teaching certification industry, pivoting to my application to TFA. And despite starting my teaching career with a proreform viewpoint, over time I came to see TFA in a less benevolent light and became disillusioned with the meritocratic, charter-aligned aspects of the organization. I found others on social media who feel the same way. ← 63 | 64 → The chapter concludes as I sign my contract to start my fifth year of teaching and I reflect on how few of my colleagues here are doing the same.

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