Amy Black: Teach for All

Amy Black guides the development of Teach For All’s partnerships with aspiring social entrepreneurs seeking to adapt the Teach For All model to their national contexts, and engages with external supporters to secure the financial resources necessary for the sustainability and growth of the global network.

Prior to assuming her current role, Amy served as Teach For America’s executive director in the Washington, D.C. Region, where she launched a growth effort that expanded the corps of teachers from 90 to 300, enabling the region to impact an increasing number of students. Her team also launched an early childhood education program that became an organizational model.

Amy earned a Master’s degree in international affairs from Georgetown University and spent two years as a Presidential Management Fellow, rotating through several State Department offices, including a six-month assignment in South Africa. Upon her return to the U.S., Amy oversaw communication to international audiences regarding the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief. Amy holds a Bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Tennessee.

Sixteen years ago when I entered my middle school classroom in Baltimore, Maryland as a Teach For America corps member, I could not have predicted that today, young graduates and professionals in 32 countries would be standing in front of their own classrooms and working towards greater educational opportunity as participants in Teach For All partner programs around the world. I have been fortunate since my days in the classroom, however, to have had a series of experiences that lead me to be thoroughly convinced that the thousands of new educators and advocates who have joined Teach For All programs in the last five years are building a growing and ever-improving global movement toward educational excellence and equity.

After graduating from college, I joined Teach For America as a member of its seventh corps of teachers committed to teaching for two years in some of the nation’s highest-need schools and continuing to address educational inequity throughout their careers. Though my students attended a school in a low-income community and the majority were performing more than two years behind grade level, it was quickly obvious that they had as much potential and ability as their more affluent peers in richer neighborhoods.

The years I taught in Baltimore shaped my understanding of the daunting challenges children growing up in poverty face and the pressures placed on teachers and schools charged with addressing these challenges. Through examples of some veteran teachers, the best of my fellow corps members, and eventually my own classroom, I repeatedly saw evidence that supporting students to overcome external obstacles that impede their academic progress isn’t easy—but it is possible. At a classroom level, teachers who combine exceptionally hard work with high expectations for what kids can do in spite of the challenges, and who inspire their kids to do the same, are consistently able to lead kids to meet those expectations.

In 2005, when I became the executive director of Teach For America’s Washington, D.C. region, I saw the same principles applied on a systemic level as a critical mass of committed educators, including hundreds of Teach For America teachers and alumni working at all levels inside and outside of the education system, began to work more intentionally and explicitly toward a shared vision that all of D.C.’s children—especially those facing the biggest challenges—would have the opportunity to attain an excellent education. While there is still a long way to go, significant progress has been made in D.C. as well as other communities in the U.S., such as New Orleans and the San Francisco Bay Area, where a large enough cadre of educators with the commitment and vision to create more equitable systems have been gaining measurable traction in the last several years.

When Teach For America founder Wendy Kopp and Teach First (UK) founder Brett Wigdortz launched Teach For All in 2007, I was honored to come on board soon after. Between my time as a teacher in Baltimore and joining staff with Teach For America in D.C., I worked for the U.S. State Department on the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, and traveled to more than 20 countries where the HIV/AIDS epidemic was most severe. Through this experience I came to truly understand how critical education is to our collective welfare and how foundational it is to meaningfully addressing almost all other important issues impacting our global community, including health, security and the environment. I was excited by the potential of the Teach For All network to effect on a global level the kinds of changes I had seen in classrooms and schools in D.C., and that we were starting to see at the system level in some regions of the U.S.

Today, I lead our Growth Strategy and Development team and help independent social entrepreneurs who approach Teach For All for support in adapting our model to their own national contexts. We simultaneously work alongside our partner organizations to find and inspire philanthropists who believe, as we do, that recruiting a nation’s most promising future leaders to serve as teachers early in their careers and then supporting them to become lifelong agents of change is a critical component to improving educational outcomes in any country. My work collaborating with this incredible network of international leaders along with my firsthand experience of the model’s impact over time in the U.S. makes me incredibly optimistic about the potential of this movement.

Teach For All’s aim—and its challenge—is to help our partners move the needle on education further, faster, by facilitating the sharing of knowledge and resources among them. As Teach For All has grown, I’ve watched how the power of scale to create change that I first witnessed in D.C. is now playing out around the world, and how sharing best practices across the network enables all of our partners to impact their nations’ educational landscapes more rapidly.

Addressing a global issue like education, however, requires philanthropists who believe in the power of working together across borders—knowing that doing so will directly benefit the children in their own countries, as well as children all over the world. At Teach For All, building this constituency of supporters is among our biggest challenges and our greatest opportunities. When there is so much work to be done in our own backyards, it isn’t always easy to look beyond the students and schools down the block to those across an ocean. But I have no doubt that the kids I know best in Baltimore and D.C. are better off—and we’re all better off—when teachers and school leaders from Mexico to Bulgaria to Pakistan make progress that educators and policymakers around the world can learn from. So much potential exists to increase educational opportunity for all children, everywhere—in classrooms and schools, and, ultimately, entire schools systems—and I’m excited to be in a position to help build the globally-minded philanthropic community who will help us reach that goal.

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