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A former grade-school teacher reflects on his Teach for America days

Michael Copperman | GOOD


I came to look forward to the high-waving hand, the emphatic call of Teach-er! Slowly, her grammar improved. By her last essay, on identity, she wrote me not one, not two, but three different essays about the meaning of education and its role in her identity. Each essay was excellent and different: What a higher education means to a student coming from the sort of poverty she’d experienced with an absentee father, a mother caught in a cycle of poverty and afflicted by health issues, and her close family caught up in drugs and petty crime out of the desire for something better and brighter than what was before them. What sort of curriculum might reach a student like her, interested in so much and with so little to hold onto in places like Oregon. What the price was for achieving excellence in the face of adversity—the personal sacrifice, the weight of everyone else’s expectations.

Each of the essays would have been an A. Taken together, I contemplated the possibility of an A+.

Dear Mr. Mike→