Why They Stay: Teach For America Alumni in Eastern North Carolina Rural Schools

Elizabeth Barkowski

Image of young teachers

Teach For America (TFA) believes that meaningful, sustainable change to education systems requires the focus of leaders who are rooted in their local culture, who are familiar with the challenges and opportunities in a particular community, and who believe in the potential of all children.

To help inform strategic and programmatic direction, TFA is commissioning a number of studies to gather insights about alumni working in communities across the country. For this study, TFA commissioned AIR to gather alumni perspectives about their work and impact in a small, purposeful sample of rural communities in Eastern North Carolina.

Districts and schools seeking to recruit, select, develop, and retain educators in rural communities can use the information collected and analyzed through this descriptive study to create the conditions and community that can foster educator growth.

Key Findings

  • Many TFA alumni are committed to the region. A majority continued to teach in the same school or in the region after their two-year TFA commitment.
  • TFA alumni described the primary reasons they joined and stayed in Eastern North Carolina schools as school culture, connections to colleagues and community, and strong district and school leadership.
  • TFA alumni supported student success in rural Eastern North Carolina schools. Interviewees cited examples of how a strong TFA presence helps drive the mission and vision for education in their schools: high expectations for all students, the fostering of positive relationships with students, promotion of a sense of community among staff, and the use of restorative justice and culturally competent practices.