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July 12, 2014

OU grad leads veterans teaching initiative

NORMAN — The personal rewards of working with America’s youth in the public education system are bountiful and something Teach For America recruits have known since its inception. Now, the highly competitive program is pushing an initiative to increase the number of military veterans in this battle to fight education inequality.

Sidney Ellington, a former Norman resident and University of Oklahoma graduate, leads Teach For America’s national veterans recruitment initiative “You Served For America, Now Teach For America.”

The initiative’s goal is to increase the number of military veterans and their spouses involved in Teach For America to upwards of 800 by 2016. Ellington said currently there are about 250 military veterans in the program.

To accomplish this goal, Ellington said TFA would continue to increase its visibility on college campuses like OU and connect with veterans, so that they know what an asset they could be for Teach For America.

“We’ve found that military veterans are very effective teachers. Their skills translate to the classroom such as leadership, diversity and teamwork. We see these as strengths and their involvement in a classroom can change the life trajectory of these kids,” he said.

After earning his PhD at OU, in 2010 Ellington joined TFA as a corps member, volunteering for special education in TFA’s highest-need region, New Orleans. Ellington went on to teach in an alternative high school setting where all students were over-age and at least two years behind academically, departing as Dean of Students.

“It was a life-changing experience, dealing with very intense issues on a daily basis,” Ellington said.

Ellington’s vision for “You Served For America, Now Teach For America,” includes strengthening TFA’s national and regional-level recruitment, building strong connections across veteran corps members and alumni, and increasing our allied collaboration to present teaching as a continued form of service and employment to veterans and military spouses.

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