Teach for America: One year later
A look at the national program’s first year in Tulsa — its teachers, its potential impact and how it fits in to Tulsa Public Schools’ growing budget concerns.
Leslie Daugherty, an Oklahoma State University graduate, began her professional career at Exxon Mobil but now teaches English at Will Rogers High School as part of Teach for America.
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Leslie Daugherty landed a pretty perfect job after graduating from Oklahoma State University in 2003.
She had secured a position at Exxon Mobil, where she worked in human resources. She also earned her Master’s in Business Administration, potentially setting the stage for advancement opportunities.
But something was missing. While Daugherty, 28, says she enjoyed her job, she felt as if she wasn’t making the impact she wanted.
“I really enjoyed that job,” she says. “I really liked what I was doing, but I really just wanted something that had a little more impact. It just didn’t feel quite right.”
So she gave up the corporate world to try teaching.
As the Seminole native began considering how to make this transition, she recalled learning about the Teach for America program as an undergraduate. The nonprofit organization places recent graduates and professionals in low-income schools for two years.
“As I just researched it more and found out more statistics and the achievement gap and what Teach for America does, I kind of became enthralled with it and really wanted to devote my time to it,” Daugherty says.
She completed the strenuous application process, interviewed and was chosen to become part of Tulsa’s inaugural Teach for America (TFA) class during the 2009-2010 school year.
Daugherty now teaches 10th- and 12th-grade English at Will Rogers High School, an experience, she says, that has been great but also one of the biggest challenges of her life.
“Every day is a new learning experience,” she says. “There’s a lot of responsibility that comes with it. I don’t think I realized sort of the weight that I would feel in preparing the kids and just really wanting the best for them. So they’re kind of all you think about.”