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Nine going to the head of the class
Recent grads put careers on hold and commit two years of teaching 

ATHENS, Ohio (April 27, 2007) -- A funny thing happened to Gretchen Cataline on the way to law school.

The senior from Gahanna, Ohio, was sure she would attend law school after graduating from Ohio University. But now her plans have changed to include two years of teaching at an underprivileged Arizona elementary school. Cataline is one of nine Ohio University graduates who have agreed to put their intended careers on hold to teach at low-income schools around the country in the Teach for America program.

"I thought it would be a great way for me to make an impact," said Cataline.

Graduate students Michael Bertner and Dustin Wood, discuss the Teach for America program.  The two have committed to a two-year committment to teach in underprivileged school districts as part of the program.The program actively seeks graduates who aren't trained as teachers. In fact, just one of the nine students who will be teaching next year is studying education. Other majors include political science, journalism and sociology. Cataline, a communications studies major, will spend two years teaching special education in kindergarten through second grade in the Glendale (Ariz.) Elementary School District.

The nine students went through a rigorous and selective application process that included an essay and two interviews, one of them daylong.According to its Web site, Teach for America accepted only 12 percent of the nearly 19,000 people who applied for the corps in 2006. After graduating in the spring next year's teachers will undergo five weeks of intense teacher training this summer to begin their teaching commitments in the fall.

Since 1990, Teach for America has recruited more than 14,000 individuals who have helped to improve the lives of two million students. With a budget of nearly $40 million, 70 percent of it coming from private contributions, Teach for American has worked to give low-income children equal opportunities.

Although it wasn't her desire to become a teacher, Cataline became interested in education while conducting her undergraduate work. As part of her studies in public advocacy, she explored inequalities among Ohio school districts.

"Seeing schools in southeast Ohio and their condition makes me realize that there is so much more progress to be made," she said.

So when a recruiter from Teach for America called and described the program, Cataline was hooked.

Holly Davis and Tracy Griffen will spend the next two years as teachers in the Teach for America program.  The program places recent college graduates from all disciplines in economically challenged school districts across the country.Many Ohio University students are drawn to the program for the same reasons as Cataline. Ann Fidler, dean of the Honors Tutorial College and mentor to three of the students accepted this year, said the students who made the teaching commitment all have an interest in social justice.

"They feel that this is something they need to do," Fidler said. "What they're going to bring is enthusiasm, intelligence and a huge desire to make a difference."

In addition to working with students, Cataline also will work toward a master's degree at Arizona State University. Other students will serve underprivileged schools in rural and urban districts in places like New York City, New Mexico and the Mississippi Delta.

The teachers are paid a salary from their host school district and are eligible for a year-end bonus of nearly $5,000 to use on education expenses or student loans. Grants or loans to cover housing expenses also are available.

But to Cataline, the chance to network with other teachers and learn the educational system first hand will be even more valuable than her salary.

"I'm working with students who are so young. It's going to be a great opportunity to get them to love school," she said. "It was an opportunity I couldn't pass up."

The nine students will be recognized during the annual luncheon held by Ohio University's Office of Nationally Competitive Awards on May 31.

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Written by: Tom Bosco, a writer with University Communications and Marketing
Media Contact: Senior Director of Media Relations Sally Linder, 740-597-1793 or linders@ohio.edu

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