Michael Jefferson, a Florida A&M University Fall 2013 graduate, made a path for himself by becoming a corps member for Teach For America, an American non-profit organization.
Being a fourth-generation historical black college or university attendee, FAMU was always Jefferson’s dream school.
“FAMU was an amazing and enriching experience,” Jefferson said.
A long line of his family attended Jackson State University; however, Jefferson made a striking step when he attended FAMU. He now encourages his students at Byhalia High School located in Marshall County Miss., to apply to all HBCUs.
“I represent all HBCUs: Jackson State, FAMU, Mississippi Valley. They are all really good at educating us and really good at making sure we graduate,” Jefferson said.
According to Crystal Daniels, HBCU regional director, TFA’s mission is to ensure all kids regardless of their race, color of their skin, parents’ income, they deserve a quality education and given the opportunity to achieve higher learning. The organization thrives on eliminating educational inequity by selecting recent college graduates and professionals to teach for at least two years in low-income communities.
“We put a lot of effort in recruiting high quality and diverse teachers into the classrooms,” Daniels said.
Jefferson is in his first year of teaching at Byhalia High School where he teaches grades nine through 12 in chemistry, physical science and advanced chemistry. He is also an ACT tutor and student government association faculty member.
“I absolutely love teaching, it is arguably the most rewarding experience I ever had,” Jefferson said.
Jefferson was introduced to the organization by his line brothers of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity at FAMU and through Crystal Daniels.
Christopher Rich is a senior environmental science student and Jefferson’s fraternity brother. He believes Jefferson enjoys his job.
“He fits being a teacher and since he is young, he can relate to his students,” Rich said.
Jefferson did not always want to be a teacher. He wanted to be a chemical engineer. After one semester in the engineering curriculum, Jefferson quickly found himself switching his major to environmental sciences.
Going into his senior year at FAMU, Jefferson completed his TFA application online, wrote essays and received recommendations for the organization and by November he received his acceptance into TFA. After being accepted into TFA, the next step was to select 10-15 regions that he would like to teach in.
“You could be placed as far west as Hawaii or as far east as Rhode Island,” Jefferson said.
Jefferson was selected to teach in Marshall County Mississippi. Once that process was completed he had to attend a teaching boot camp, which lasted four to seven weeks. At camp, he learned how to construct a lesson plan, classroom management and other skills to use in the classroom.
“One of the best decisions I have ever made second only to FAMU,” Jefferson said.
In the 2014-15, 10,600 corps members teach in high-need classrooms in 50 regions spanning 35 states and the District of Columbia. FAMU is one of the leading contributors of corps members to TFA compared to other HBCUs. At FAMU, about nine percent of the senior class applied, compared to last year TFA had a 54 percent increase in applicants at FAMU. Last year, among 6,000 first-year teachers 11 were FAMU grads. For the 2014 Teach For America Corps, 23 Rattlers made the commitment and will teach for two years across 15 national locations. Jefferson is committing three years.
“Teach for America has a lot of great networks and support,” said Jefferson, who plans to continue in education once he completes his commitment.
He is in the process of applying to Mississippi State to receive a masters degree in secondary education.
“I think that the best part about being in TFA is that at the end of every day you could point to one moment where you had an impact on somebody’s life,” Jefferson said.
From attending the school of his dreams, being accepted into TFA and encouraging his students to achieve higher learning, Jefferson promotes education and following your passion.
When asked what advice he could give current students and graduating seniors on their future endeavors Jefferson said, “be free to make mistakes and make great decisions.”
For more information on TFA, visit their website.