There is a growing group of Teach For America teachers that the organization calls second-generation corps members—incoming teachers who were taught by corps members themselves. Currently, there’s over 500 of these teachers nationwide.
And I know one of them.
Andrea Kinzer is the first second-generation corps member in Nashville, Tennessee. When she was a senior at Whites Creek High School, she was an AP student, a member of the girls’ golf team and a student of Teach For America teachers.
Bright, charming and ambitious, she didn’t surprise many of us when she headed off to Spelman College after graduating at the top of her class. Although I didn’t teach her while I was at Whites Creek, I got the chance to know Andrea when I accompanied her on a golf tournament during her junior and senior years and was impressed with her grit and spirit.
I recently remembered Andrea and suggested to her former teachers that she would be a strong candidate for Teach For America. I was informed that she had not only been referred already, but she had been accepted and confirmed as a 2015 Teach For America corps member in Nashville.
Last week, I saw her for the first time since 2011, and we talked about her path back to her hometown as she prepares to teach at a school just miles down the road from Whites Creek.
It Just Made Sense
When she was in high school, I asked her if she had ever thought about becoming a teacher, she laughed. She was adamant about her desire to take her life in a different direction than many of the women in her family.
“No, not at all,” she said. “A lot of the women in my family were teachers, so I thought: absolutely not.” Her mother taught at several schools in Nashville and is currently a principal.
During college, Andrea ended up pursuing a minor in African-American history, interning at a district attorney’s office, and near the end of her junior year, remembering one of her favorite teachers from high school, Mr. Williams, her Advanced Placement U.S. history teacher.
“It all came full circle,” she said. “I started thinking about Mr. Williams and for what I wanted to do in the world…I felt like teaching was the path.”
After her internship at the district attorney’s office, she quickly realized that while she wanted to help people, it didn’t necessarily involve a courtroom.
I don’t know if I want to be on either side of the table trying to get somebody out of prison or put somebody in there. I thought about a way that is a little more proactive, [and] the classroom is the perfect place…the classroom just made sense.
So, she applied for Teach For America.
Past Meets Present
On her application, she referenced teachers like Mr. Williams and Ms. Miller, a Teach For America alumna and former Spanish teacher at Whites Creek, as her reasons for applying. She acknowledged the impact they had on her and the effect she could have on her future students.
After being accepted into the program, Andrea began interviewing with principals, eventually having a phone interview with the principal at KIPP Nashville College Prep, a feeder school for Whites Creek.
“I honestly didn’t know who she was when she called me, and I thought, this person really knows me, and she ended up telling me at the end of the call,” Andrea said.
Near the end of the conversation, the principal revealed herself as Ms. Miller, who was now Ms. Olszewski and offered Andrea a job to teach at KIPP Nashville College Prep, meaning she would be able to return home and teach just down the street from Whites Creek.
‘Right in the Heart of the Neighborhood’
“She understands where I came from,” Andrea said about Ms. Miller. “I’m feeling really good about it.” And, she’ll be working right in the heart of the neighborhood she grew up in.
“I’ll probably know their siblings,” she said, thinking about the students she’ll start teaching later this summer. “I come from a place where I can really relate to them.”
Andrea will step into the classroom later this summer, teaching students who may go on to be teachers themselves.