Q & A with Teach for America

This blog post has been updated by Kristina Rust, Career Consultant on May 10, 2024 for relevancy, inclusivity, and formatting. Please note that some of the information is specific to Lea's experience in 2016 and may be outdated.

A conversation with Lea Babcock, (UGA ’14 & TFA Greater Nashville ’14)

Lea Babcock graduated from UGA in 2014 with a degree in Human Development and Family Sciences, and a minor in Global Studies and African Studies. During her time in undergrad, she volunteered with Young Life and Wellspring Living, before founding Out of Darkness, which provides assistance to women of Athens currently transitioning out of prostitution. After graduation, she joined the 2014 Teach For America Greater Nashville corps, where she taught English at an international academy. Lea now works on staff for Teach For America and lives in Athens.

What would you like UGA students to know about Teach for America?
Your passion for service, leadership, and community impact doesn’t have to end after graduation. My experience with Teach For America gave me the opportunity to invest in a community, exercise my leadership, and build relationships that will stay with me for a lifetime. Just months after graduating, I found myself sitting around dinner tables, local restaurants, and nail salons owned by my students’ families. I also ran a garden club at my high school that gave my students real-world business skills and the opportunity to give back to their community. We worked with communities affected by homelessness who didn’t have access to fresh food, and we also supplied the local restaurants with our home-grown vegetables. Your experience in Teach For America will be unique to you and what you’re passionate about, whether it’s starting a community garden, coaching the soccer team, or starting a debate league!

Why should UGA students consider joining Teach for America?
My time at UGA affirmed my desire to find a career in service after graduation. After working with Young Life and founding an organization in Athens, I realized that I didn’t want to sit behind a desk. For any UGA students looking to launch a career that puts their leadership and passion to the test, this is the chance for you. You will face challenges every day, but you will also gain the insight, conviction, and experience that will allow you to have lifelong impact on others. My students are still a very active and important part of my life. They have deeply shaped my values, actions, and mindsets.  

What did your classroom experience look like?
In my classroom in South Nashville, nearly half of my students were undocumented. This gave me the opportunity to ensure that all of my students received scholarships and were fully funded for college. During my second year in the classroom, my students made three years of academic improvement in just one school year, all because of their grit and perseverance—they inspire me to this day. TFA isn’t just about teaching, or even about what you’ll do after the corps. This is about implementing your leadership, from the moment you graduate and receive your diploma at Sanford Stadium and throughout the rest of your career.

What skills and qualities are necessary to succeed as a Teach For America corps member?
I truly believe many UGA students have the skills, experiences, and values needed to succeed as a classroom leader--leadership, grit, passion, relationship building, critical thinking, and resilience.  So many of those skills were fostered during my time here at UGA. My time volunteering and running student organizations throughout college prepared me to be a successful teacher, club advisor, community organizer, and relationship builder even more than I realized at the time.

What is Teach For America’s culture like?
I was actually initially drawn to Teach For America for this reason! During my junior year, I picked up a TFA pamphlet, and on the back I read over our core values. They directly aligned with the vision I had for myself and the type of organization or company I wanted to work for after graduating. Working with Teach For America gave me the opportunity to join a team and family of diverse and passionate leaders, who have forever impacted my life.

How can a UGA student or alum best prepare for the Teach For America application and interview process?
For students who are looking to start their career at TFA or just want to learn more, I’d encourage them to meet with Kate McNamara, who is TFA’s representative at UGA. You can also start an application online or visit teachforamerica.org, where you’ll find information about each of our 53 regions and see the impact you can make. It was my informal coffee chat with a TFA recruiter four years ago that transformed by career path and shaped my future.

If you are interested in meeting with Kate, or would just like to start a conversation with me, send me an email at lea.babcock@teachforamerica.org. I always love connecting with other dawgs!

Can you share some success stories of UGA graduates who have done Teach For America?
UGA TFA alumni are leading in meaningful ways across the country! I think about my friend Pete McDonald, a former Grady Ambassador and the student speaker at the 2012 Commencement, who is currently in Law School at Harvard. Then there’s Tim Anderson, a 2009 Denver corps member, who now works for Google Play. I also think about UGA alumni who are making an impact in the classroom, like Hunter Brocato, the former Director of PBJ Athens, who is in his second year of the corps in New Orleans! These are just a few of the hundreds of UGA grads who are shaping the political, economic, and social future of our nation—all fueled by their experiences in the classroom. In fact, UGA was recently named one of Teach For America’s Top Contributors for corps members! 

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