What are our Communities Saying?


What are our Communities Saying?

Post-Presidential election reflections from Bay Area students and educators

Educators across the nation addressed the 2016 Presidential election results with their classrooms and schools this week. Below are compiled reflections and experiences from some of our Bay Area school leaders, teachers and students.

We gazed at one another in silent longing for what felt like a lifetime until my students created the lesson plan that I could not. They collaborated to agree on the following ground rules:

  1. MY voice matters.
  2. YOUR voice matters.
  3. We will LOVE one another.

A few of their voices, as they listened in respectful silence to collective resistance and resilience:

“All of our colors are beautiful.” – 14 year-old student

“20 years from now, when I have kids, I hope that our country will be a place where you can come out to love who you love, come here to be who you want to be, and be respected to be you are.” [Applause] – 11 year-old student

My students’ voices were glimmers of hope…

Brendan McIntyre, Bay Area Corps ’15


This morning I sat in a community circle with my 3rd graders to try to begin to process the election results…I couldn’t be more thankful to be surrounded by the most amazing little humans who are a constant reminder of all that is still “good” and “beautiful” in our country right now. Their very existence being the most important reason we keep on fighting. As we were closing in our Appreciation Circle, one kiddo thanked everyone for making him “feel much better” and then said, “In 4 years I’m going to be in 7th grade and the world better WATCH OUT.” Because yes, one day they will be in charge and for that, there is hope. So much hope. ❤️

Kyoko Utsumi, Bay Area Corps ’13


Random neighbors showing up in support of our students (all of whom are immigrants) this morning.

Kyle Svingen, Bay Area Corps ’12


Diana Lay, Bay Area Corps ’13


Ms. Oza (Chicago Corps ’08) makes safe space signs for Everett Middle School (San Francisco, CA).


Despite the reality that has prompted so much fear in our youth, their ability to imagine a world free from such hate and filled with hope and love is what must push us forward.

Chris Arreola, Bay Area Corps ’16


A message from your neighborhood kinders:
Dear President Trump,
We are valued.
We are peaceful.
We are united.

Ryan Swick, Bay Area Corps ’15


Just one of my incredible students’ responses to today’s TK writing assignment: my hope for the future is…

Brianna Brown, Bay Area Corps ’15


My students deserve love 🐝☀️

Audrey McMillion, Bay Area Corps ’16


Grateful for the fiery passion of Richmond students and their incredibly supportive and empowering teachers. The most hopeful I’ve been in the past 48 hours is hearing their voices and seeing their messages of love & strength.

Courtney Guenard, Bay Area Corps ’10


Claire Baugher, Bay Area Corps ’14


From the Navy to the Classroom


From the Navy to the Classroom

Neal Bottom, 2014 Bay Area Corps, is a secondary mathematics teacher in Richmond. Prior to joining the corps, Neal served as a Petty Officer Third Class in the US Navy.

My service in the Navy developed me as a leader. As a leader, I learned the importance of being inquisitive and bringing multiple voices to a conversation.

I became a teacher because I know education is the biggest lever in really shifting a community to performing at its highest potential. As a teacher, I value the voices and input of my students in each lesson we learn. From student surveys, lesson reflections and general classroom dialogue, my students and I own what we do. We all contribute to shape the classroom experience.

Neal Bottom, Bay Area Corps ’14


November 2016 Regional Newsletter

TFA-Bay Area Update

carmina-porteaCarmina Portea (’16) leads instruction in her transitional kindergarten class at REACH Academy through song.

Last month, Innovate Public Schools released their second annual report on the top Bay Area schools for underserved children, highlighting schools across the Bay Area where low-income students of color have achieved strong results on California’s new and more rigorous statewide assessment. Of the 41 top performing schools across the Bay Area, more than half have a TFA presence, and nearly 74% of the TFA-affiliated staff serve in mid-level to school leadership positions.

This top-performing 7 percent of all 568 Bay Area schools educating underserved students is the model of what can be – what should be – for all children in our community. As the admissions process for the 2017 corps gets underway, we commit to enlisting dedicated leaders who believe in the unlimited potential of their future students.

We are so grateful for the unyielding support from community champions like Warriors player Draymond Green, who recently coded alongside Oakland High School students, as well as 2008 alumna and UCSF Pediatric Resident Emily Frank, who dedicates her medical practice to underserved youth and, of course, advocates like you. Thank you for your partnership and continued commitment in support of this mission.


PK Sign

Paul Keys
Executive Director, Teach For America-Bay Area



Announcing the establishment of the Teach For America-Bay Area Rising Leaders Fellowship! This five-month leadership pathway program addresses a critical talent need for our community partners and will allow recent alumni to explore instructional, school and civic leadership through funding for a personalized learning plan and mentorship with experienced community leaders.


Danielle Harlan (Bay Area ‘08), Founder and CEO of The Center for Advancing Leadership and Human Potential, never imagined that beginning her career as a special education teacher with Teach For America would lead her to running an organization focused on leadership and human potential. Check out the latest Forbes feature on how Harlan guides individuals to transformation by redefining leadership.


Two TFA Bay Area alumnae are changing the odds for youth by dismantling the school-to-prison pipeline
: Emily Fox (New Jersey ‘08) through the San Francisco Department of Children, Youth & Their Families as the Data and Evaluation Analyst, and GeDá Jones Herbert (Greater Nashville ‘09) as the Law Program Site Manager for Fresh Lifelines for Youth. Read more about their impact>


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Announcing the Rising Leaders Fellowship


Introducing the Rising Leaders Fellowship

Teach For America – Bay Area is proud to announce the establishment of the Rising Leaders Fellowship, a seven-month leadership pathway program for recent alumni exploring instructional, school and civic leadership.

In an effort to develop and grow alumni impact beyond the classroom, as well as address the critical talent need for community partners, Teach For America – Bay Area is proud to establish the Rising Leaders Fellowship, a new leadership pathway program to launch in 2016.

Through the Rising Leaders Fellowship, recent Teach For America alumni in the Bay Area will have the opportunity to refine their long-term role in ending educational inequity through focused development in instructional, school and civic leadership.

In addition to engaging in values-based leadership development, self-driven cohort learning experiences and mentoring opportunities with alumni leaders, the inaugural 2016-2017 fellows may receive grant funding to build a personalized learning plan with an experienced mentor in the leadership direction they pursue.

“We realize that there are many ways to make an impact in the education landscape,” said Jenn Camus, Director of Alumni Educators and Talent at Teach For America-Bay Area. “As such, we are deeply committed to helping our alumni continue to collaborate with each other and develop as leaders in the Bay Area beyond their 2 year commitment.”

More than 2,700 alumni reside in the Teach For America – Bay Area communities of Oakland, Richmond, San Jose and San Francisco. The network contributes 656 teachers, 118 mid-level school leaders, 69 school leaders and 17 school-systems leaders to educational landscape in the Bay.

“We are incredibly excited to welcome the first-ever TFA-Bay Area Rising Leaders Fellows and begin programming,” Jenn said. “We’ve seen great interest in the fellowship from alumni across our four communities, which really speaks to the need for this leadership development opportunity.”


About Teach For America

Teach For America works in partnership with communities to expand educational opportunity for children facing the challenges of poverty. Founded in 1990, Teach For America recruits and develops a diverse corps of outstanding college graduates and professionals to make an initial two-year commitment to teach in high-need schools and become lifelong leaders in the effort to end educational inequity. Today, 6,900 corps members are teaching in 53 urban and rural regions across the country while more than 46,000 alumni work across sectors to ensure that all children have access to an excellent education. Teach For America is a proud member of the AmeriCorps national service network. For more information, visit and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.


Tips & Tricks for Fall Thriving

Tips & Tricks for Fall Thriving

Fall can be a challenging season for new teachers – but not to fear! Our experienced alumni know the October, November & December months like pros, and have a few words of wisdom to share. Check out what classroom tricks & self-care tips these experts practice to not only survive, but thrive, in the classroom!



Spend recess outside with your students once in awhile if you can to get outside yourself and interact with your students in a different and fun way!

Sara Solar, 2002



Math teacher? Use the election and/or MLB playoffs to engage students in a statistical challenge! Statistics is often as aspect of math kids don’t learn too much about until high school and can be a game changer in the “I’m good at math” mindset.

Nick Resnick, 2008



Ask for help! Your are not in this work alone. Reach out to other teachers, administrators, counselors, parents, coaches, and kids for their advice on dealing with challenging situations.

Sarah Klyap, 2008

cassandra-teschIt doesn’t always have to be positive phone calls! Sometimes, phone calls feel intimidating…here are some other options!

– Positive Post-Cards: Send a surprise postcard to a student’s family
– Positive texts: Send positive texts to parents about their amazing children
– Positive emails: Send positive emails/photos to parents
– Positive letters: Write a letter and send it home with a student to share with families how great they are
– Positive stickies: Write positive stickies to students with something they’re doing well

Cassandra Tesch, 2010


I find that when it starts to get colder and darker outside I come home from school and spend way too many hours on my couch. To fight my natural inclination towards hibernation, I try to schedule my after-school activities in advance – I sign up for more workout classes, make dates with friends, and schedule some special appointments like manicures or massages!

Emma Coufal, 2011

rupa-devIt’s a good time to schedule a phone date with a friend or reconnect with family or friends. It’s easy to start going months without talking to friends that aren’t living near you or in the corps, and talking to an old friend or a family member can help you re-ground yourself and feel more connected (both on the inside and to others).

Rupa Dev Rihan, 2012



Set time limits on lesson planning and work time… and stick to them. You will find that you are forced to become more efficient and effective under pressure.

Nicki Fox, 2013



Keep a quote book of funny/memorable things that your students say.

Claire Baugher, 2014



If you have students work in a group setting, color code the seats by taping different colors down on the desk/table. You can use these colors to call on students, assign group roles, or strategically group students.

Nora Hurab, 2014



Get parents/ volunteers to come to your classroom. This can help with your management/ routines and create more relationships between home and school.

Kevin Ebach, 2014

These classroom tricks and self-care tips were originally gathered for TFA Oakland’s 3rd Annual Back-To-School Event 10/6/16. 


Alumni Feature: Emily Frank


Alumni Feature: Emily Frank

“Every day I go to work, I find myself drawing on lessons of providing transparency, engaging patient’s influencers, identifying objectives and checking for understanding.”

Emily Frank (’08), San Francisco, CA
Emily is a Pediatric Resident at UCSF’s Pediatric Leadership for the Underserved Program (PLUS).

Why did you join TFA? “I joined TFA because I wanted the opportunity to teach in a low-income public school within a wider support structure. Growing up, I lived in a racially homogeneous state and was terribly unaware of the ways race and socioeconomic status played into the quality of public education. Once I discovered how much my zip code predicted the quality of public education I would receive and the likelihood of high school graduation and college attendance, I became angry and sought opportunities to work with youth to provide a quality education and help them realize their full potential.”

Favorite TFA Memory? “During my second year in the classroom, I invited a group of 5 scientists from UC Berkeley for ‘Scientist Day’. My students had been preparing for days and had been practicing handshakes and writing open ended questions. Watching my students light up at the opportunity to meet ‘real scientists’, practice their best handshakes and introductions, ask phenomenal open ended questions, and really engage in conversations about scientific research was amazing (they also loved using microscopes, petri dishes, and pipettes to plate bacteria.) I loved seeing them discover that scientists could come from all backgrounds.”

How has TFA impacted you? “Many of the lessons I learned through TFA helped change the trajectory of my career. I learned that peer pressure is the strongest force on earth, that with enough scaffolding kids can do anything, and that despite popular belief, kids truly care about their health. These discoveries led me towards a career in Pediatrics. I am currently a 2nd year pediatric resident at UCSF’s Pediatric Leadership for the Underserved Program (PLUS). Every day I go to work, I find myself drawing on lessons of providing transparency, engaging patient’s influencers, identifying objectives and checking for understanding. Most importantly, TFA taught me the importance of empowering youth to make large scale change. In my non clinic time, I work to build youth participatory action research programs that help youth identify and act on the health needs of their communities.”

Colleges attended:
Dartmouth College
Alliant International University
Tufts University School of Medicine

Community activities: Summer Health Bridge OUSD, #DoNoHarm Coalition


Alumni Feature: Richard Pelayo


Alumni Feature: Richard Pelayo

“My experience as a Teach For America corps member reinforced for me that great teachers aren’t born, they’re made – and yet, delivering on a great education takes collective leadership.”

Richard Pelayo (’08), Richmond, CA
Richard is the Managing Director of GO Public Schools West Contra Costa.

Why did you join TFA? “I made the decision to step up to the front of the classroom because my personal experience told me that we, Latinxs, were missing in action. I am the son of Mexican immigrants, an Upward Bound alumnus, and first in my family to graduate from college. Joining Teach For America offered me the opportunity to take part in empowering others to access the same opportunities I did. Years later, I have stayed part of the Richmond education community because of the people I have met – students, teachers, parents, and community leaders.”

Favorite TFA Memory? “In 2010, I joined the staff of Lincoln Elementary in Richmond, CA, which became a magnet for Teach For America corps members and alumni. I remember meeting everyone for the first in the school staff room, which is a place that generates many memories for me.

The staff room was a common place for innovation and frustration. On a good day, you could hear brilliant minds discussing plans for data-driven instruction and tracking. The energy created in the room could awaken any person, even after a long day of being in the classroom. On your worst day, it was a place you could bury your face in your homemade sandwich to try to escape the pressures of your role. And of course, I will never forget the daily game of Russian roulette with copy machines. The staff room was a special place, and I miss seeing all the great school leaders who I shared it with.”

How has TFA impacted you? “My experience as a Teach For America corps member reinforced for me that great teachers aren’t born, they’re made – and yet, delivering on a great education takes collective leadership. While teaching, I became obsessed with the big picture of my students’ K-12 journey. With so many factors impacting students in and out of the classroom, it became clear that solutions need to come from and involve a community of parents, youth, educators, school and district staff, and community-based leaders. Teach For America gave me hope that we can inspire a generation of leaders to step up for children and educational justice. That belief inspired me to co-found GO Public Schools West Contra Costa to advocate for systemic change through leadership development and community engagement.”

College attended: San Diego State University

Community activities: San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus


October 2016 Regional Newsletter

TFA-Bay Area Update


We’re closing out Hispanic Heritage Month, and I can’t help but to reflect on our network of dynamic and diverse leaders expanding educational opportunities for kids in the Bay.

Remarkable leaders, like corps member Elizabeth Nuñez Guzman (‘16), lead students daily to exceptional academic gains in the classroom. Instructional Coach José González (’14) (who got his start in the classroom) is beginning a doctoral program in January, taking him one step closer to his goal of one day leading a district as superintendent. Medical student and Minority Scholars Award Winner Amanda Compadre (‘10) works tirelessly to inspire more people of color to pursue a career in medicine.

Today (and beyond!) we celebrate and support the extraordinary leaders who embrace and affirm the unique identities of our students.

Very best,

PK Sign

Paul Keys
Executive Director, Teach For America-Bay Area



This month we launched the application for The Fish Fellowship in Civic Leadership! This fellowship, established in honor of former board chair Jason Fish, will award one Teach For America alumnus a fully-funded fellowship in the government of the City and County of San Francisco to explore a career in civic leadership. Applications are due October 28.


Innovation FundAnnouncing the 2016 Innovation Fund winners! Congratulations to Bay Area educators Kate Goedeker (Hawai’i ‘08), Rebecca Hornthal (Massachusetts ‘11), Laura Kretschmar (Greater New Orleans ‘95), Bianca Lorenz (Bay Area ‘15), Adnan Pirzada (Mississippi ‘10) and Edgar Rodriguez Ramirez (Bay Area ‘13). The Innovation Fund award, sponsored by the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, will allow winners to fund their high-impact personalized learning projects for the upcoming school year.


ramon-guerra Inspired by Camp Phoenix founders James Paek (N.Y. ‘08) and Jacqueline Soohoo (Bay Area ‘07), Bay Area native Ramon Enrique Guerra (‘14) now leads Oakland youth through instruction. Check out how Guerra connects academic achievement to developing the mind, body and spirit in this national Teach For America feature.


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Innovation Fund

Meet Our 2016 Innovation Fund Award Winners

Meet Our 2016 Innovation Fund Award Winners

Teach For America – Bay Area is proud to announce the six winners of this year’s Innovation Fund, whose innovative projects implement high-impact personalized learning for students in the Bay.

Six innovative corps members and alumni are collectively taking home $85,000 after being named the 2016 Innovation Fund winners.

The Innovation Fund, sponsored by the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, awards up to $10k in funding for classroom-based projects and up to $25k for school/organization-wide projects to help corps members and alumni forge high-impact models of personalized learning that impact Bay Area students. After receiving more than 40 applications, the selection committee invited 26 applicants to interview rounds, pulling out 10 individuals as finalists for the selection panel to review.

Our seven judges – ranging from members of the TFA-Bay Area staff, regional board, Summit Public Schools team and the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative – selected 6 winners of the 10 finalists exemplifying high-impact models of personalized learning.

Congratulations to our 2016 winners!



laura-kretschumarLaura Kretschmar (Greater New Orleans ’95)
5th-6th Math and Science Teacher at Lighthouse Community Charter, Oakland, CA

Recent neuroscience research supports more visual learning of mathematics. ST math (an instruction software) is designed to use non-language visual learning to access brain’s spatial-temporal reasoning ability. We believe more visual learning software will support the needs of all of our students, not just our students who have historically struggled with mathematics.

bianca-lorenzBianca Lorenz (Bay Area ’15)
7th Grade Math Teacher at Madison Park Business and Arts Academy, Oakland, CA

Inspired by the show Shark Tank, as well as an experience from her personal education journey, Lorenz will promote entrepreneurship in her middle school classroom. “Students [will] create their own products, determine costs of product materials, engage in cost analysis, build a prototype, conduct market research, develop marketing strategies [and] present their findings to sharks – members of the community.” Students will sell their final product at the school’s culminating end-of-year event: the Math and Science Expo.



kate-goedekerKate Goedeker (Hawai’i ’08)
Founding Assistant Principal at Oakland Unity Middle School, Oakland, CA

The funding provided will give every Oakland Unity Middle School student access to and continuation in a more personalized learning experience, enable OUMS to offer intensive reading and math interventions for our most struggling students in order to catalyze their growth, and prioritize school visits to other Bay Area schools implementing personalized learning models.

rebecca-hornthalRebecca Hornthal (Massachusetts ’11)
Literacy Coach at Venetia Valley Elementary School, San Rafael, CA

Students must be equipped to navigate our society’s complex relationship with identity, race, immigration, socio-economic status and social biases. Venetia Valley School seeks to develop an after-school opportunity for students to immerse themselves in these pressing topics in self-driven ways, and to hone their skills as Social Biographers.

adnan-pirzadaAdnan Pirzada (Mississippi ’10)
Innovation Manager at Alpha Public Schools, San Jose, CA

We at Alpha Public Schools are building an application called Clarity that takes data from both the classroom and blended apps and produces a clear image of students’ progress towards mastery. Clarity’s mission is to remove the hours of digging and guesswork from data analysis and action-planning.

edgar-rodriguez-ramirezEdgar Rodriguez-Ramirez (Bay Area ’13)
Instructional Coach at REACH Academy, Oakland, CA

REACH Academy is in its first year of a 3-year redesign, where one focus area is to ensure that every child has the exposure to technology to increase their digital literacy and technology skills to drive their own learning. “Our proposal for the school-based grant is to increase our technology devices from 4:1 to 2:1. This proposal will help us ensure that our English Language Learners’ reclassification rates increase through their own understanding of their learning path and targeted support from their teachers.


Yannell Selman

Alumni Feature: Yannell Selman

Yannell Selman

Alumni Feature: Yannell Selman

“TFA gave me the space and context to figure out exactly what role I wanted to play in the fight for educational equity.”

Yannell Selman (’12), Richmond, CA
Yannell is a Parent Organizing Director for Northern California at the California Charter Schools Association.

Why did you join TFA? “While in college, I was sitting on my bed, filling out applications for jobs abroad and live-streaming CNN when a Breaking News update caught my attention. The anchor’s voice had shifted, and I looked up to see the breakfast patio at the high school I attended. The anchor announced that a 17 year old student had been stabbed and killed at 7 a.m. on campus.  He had arrived three months prior from Cuba. This was a very emotional moment. I come from a big Cuban family, and remember thinking that this could have been any of my cousins, who had also recently arrived from Cuba and were attending public schools like my alma mater. I was literally sitting in an ivory tower at my college, and I felt so privileged to be at such a great school – but also too far from the community that had given me access to a great education. I was no longer interested in going abroad; I wanted to teach here, at home, and I wanted to be doing the work as soon as possible. TFA offered that immediacy and impact.”

Favorite TFA Memory? “In my second month of teaching, a student named Christian punched me in the face. I taught 2nd grade, so he was pretty small, but it was still a shock. I had no idea what to do, and remember calling the office and explaining what had happened. Christian received a big consequence, and part of the restorative process entailed him and me spending more time together. We had one-on-one lunch at least once a week. I visited his home and got to know the person behind the anger. By the end of the year, Christian and I were very close, and I had learned a lot about him and his family. I even went on to teach his younger sister, Ashley! He and his family are very dear to me now; I believe it was this first incident that allowed me to recognize that our toughest kids can oftentimes be the most special to you.”

How has TFA impacted you? “TFA gave me the context and skills to make real change. My experience as a corps member, and now as an alumna, has given me exposure to so much – from teaching synonyms in Spanish to influencing policy outcomes in the legislature. I’ve participated in dozens of traditional Mexican baptisms and I’ve led campaigns for multiple local school board elections. TFA gave me the space and context to figure out exactly what role I wanted to play in the fight for educational equity. I am now a community organizer, working with parents around education issues – a perfect balance of systemic level change while standing with the people.”

College attended: Northwestern University

Community activities: San Quentin State Prison Early Literacy Program (teacher/tutor), Rueda Con Ritmo Salsa Dance Contingent