Teach For America opened new doors and helped them refine their interests and goals in education
By Grace Lee PPS '23
As a part of the Careers in Child and Family Policy Series, the Center for Child and Family Policy (CCFP) welcomed Nichole Davis, Cassie Lutterloh, and Whitney McCoy on September 23, 2022, to discuss their experiences with Teach for America (TFA). TFA recruits and trains “corps members” who commit to teach students in low-income communities for two years. The three speakers discussed their experiences in TFA and how it shaped their career choices and involvement in education policy.
Whitney McCoy is a research scientist for the CCFP. Her work focuses on equity and inclusion with a concentration on promoting culturally responsive strategies for trauma-informed education interventions. McCoy joined the program to get hands-on experience in the classroom and learn about inequities present throughout the education system. During the program, she pursued her Master’s in teaching, and after TFA, she taught students at charter schools and public schools. She credits much of her teaching success to the training that she received in TFA - “I was the only 4th grade teacher [at the charter school]. Because of the support that TFA gave me, I felt strong enough to be ready to do that.” After teaching, McCoy earned her PhD in educational psychology and currently conducts research on the influence of gendered racial identity in educational settings while supporting racial equity initiatives at CCFP.
Nichole Davis is an assistant university counsel at UNC-Chapel Hill and former senior legal fellow in Duke University’s Office of Counsel. Like McCoy, Davis taught students in Charlotte, NC. She described her upbringing in the Bronx, where she attended both public and private schools, and how these experiences shaped her interest in education. She asked herself: “Do I want to be on the front lines of education or do I want to focus on the intersection between education and policy?” During her two years with the program, she developed her own style of teaching, and her experience in the classroom inspired her to delve deeper into educational policy. “By the end of my experience, I realized that I cared a lot about kids, education, and policy. Going to law school and figuring out how I was going to combine education and law was where I felt I was going to make an impact.” At UNC-Chapel Hill, Davis provides legal representation for the university on issues ranging from Title IX to discrimination.
Cassie Lutterloh is the assistant vice president for talent at Public Impact, an organization dedicated to extending the reach of successful educators to more students. The organization trains multi-classroom leaders, who are “teachers with a record of high growth in student learning,” to support other teachers by providing feedback and modeling instruction. Like Davis, her experience in TFA piqued her interest in decision-making regarding education beyond the classroom. At Public Impact, Lutterloh manages staff recruitment, selection, and support. “My experience with TFA led to my next step;” she described her experiences with TFA as crucial to the development of her current professional path.
The event taught students not only about the wide range of career paths available in the field of child and family policy but also about how our experiences shape the paths we select. While Davis chose law over teaching, she shared that her experience in TFA was transformative and that she wrote about the program in her law school admissions essay. Each of the speakers said that TFA opened new doors and helped them refine their interests and goals in education. As students, we should be open to the paths around us and explore the opportunities available to us.
Grace Lee is a senior majoring in Neuroscience (B.S.) with a certificate in Child Policy Research. She aspires to be a physician-researcher working at the intersection of medicine, policy, and research regarding the social determinants of health, with a focus on child and adolescent welfare.