Each year the Bucknell Career Development Center publishes a survey of the recent graduating class, detailing statistics on where and how the new grads are employed or are continuing their education. The report includes a list of top employers, and each year, embedded among a sea of Fortune 500 financial institutions, tech companies and engineering firms, is Teach for America.
Teach for America is a nationwide organization that enlists talented and committed leaders and places them in high-needs classrooms to make an immediate, tangible impact in the lives of students. TFA says that through their teaching experience, corps member gain firsthand experience taking on the injustices low-income communities face and become lifelong leaders in the movement to end educational inequity.
Among a diverse network of 50,000 TFA leaders nationwide are 11 members of the Bucknell Class of 2016 who were also Bison varsity student-athletes:
- Chrissy Haney Scheimreif (track & field) – Massachusetts
- Jessica Bridle (track & field) – Mississippi
- Kayla Sullivan (field hockey) – New Jersey
- Madison Loos (soccer) – Rhode Island
- Mariah Midyette (softball) – Greater Nashville
- Meghan Carroll (cross country/track & field) – Baltimore
- Meghan Wentzel (volleyball) – Bay Area
- Paige Lommerin (cross country/track & field) – Chicago
- Peter Murray (cross country/track & field) – Oklahoma City
- Sierra McCarron (rowing) – Jacksonville
- Kate Keller (rowing) – Eastern North Carolina
“We are particularly proud of our corps members who are former Division I athletes,” said Lauren Barber, prospect communications specialist at Teach for America. “Because of their discipline and commitment, we’ve seen that student-athletes are uniquely poised to be classroom and community leaders. This year, we are welcoming 92 D-1 athletes to our corps, including 11 from Bucknell.”
We caught up with two of those Class of 2016 Bison who are now several months into the program. Mariah Midyette and Peter Murray are both finding it to be a life-changing experience.
Mariah was an early childhood education major at Bucknell, so teaching was clearly a part of her career path. She signed on with TFA and was assigned to teach first grade at Inglewood Elementary in the Nashville, Tennessee area.
Mariah says that over the summer, new corps members received training through seminars and discussions that focused on race and equity in education, apart from teaching summer school.
She says that the Nashville Corps is unique from other national corps because teachers undergo separate supplemental training, the Justice Journey, in which members dive into our own racial identities and prejudices and unravel them to get to one of the big disparities present in the educational gap that our nation faces today.
“The basis of this Justice Journey reminded me a lot of Common Ground that we have at Bucknell, which I attended my sophomore year,” Mariah says. “Throughout the Justice Journey and summer training we focused a lot on Blacks and African-Americans because that is what most of Nashville’s school system’s demographic is made up of. The summer was emotionally, physically, and mentally exhausting, harder than anything I’ve ever done before. But when the days got tough, our mentors checked us back in by asking us a simple question, ‘Why did you want to become a teacher?’ They had us make posters with the template ‘I believe… Therefore, I will.’ I actually have this poster hanging up behind my desk in my classroom. Being a teacher is not an easy job. However, being a teacher after gaining so much new information about the barriers and effects of educational inequity makes the job that much more meaningful for me. I don’t see it as work, I see it as the opportunity to better children’s lives. It breaks my heart to learn about just how many children in our system are being ‘pushed along’ and not given the services they need, nor the love and compassion. If a student doesn’t like you or knows that you don’t like them they will never learn from you.”
A La Puente, California native, Mariah was a four-year starting outfielder for the Bison, playing in 174 games in her career. She posted a career-high .304 batting average as a senior and was named to the Patriot League All-Academic Team. Now she is transferring the lessons in teamwork she learned as a student-athlete to a new kind of team.
“When I graduated and my softball career ended, I felt such a loss of identity and purpose in the world,” Mariah says. “Who was I? I was no longer a titled athlete or the center fielder. However, since joining Teach for America, I have found greater purpose than in anything else I’ve ever done before. I myself am the product of a lower-income community in Los Angeles County, so being able to pay this work forward to children who need it more than I did is such a blessing. Yes, it is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. And yes, it is definitely worth it.”
For Peter Murray, joining Teach for America — or even teaching at all — was not necessarily part of his career path. He majored in economics and religion at Bucknell while competing year-round as a distance runner in cross country, indoor and outdoor track and field. His journey to TFA really did not begin until the fall of his senior year, when a recruiter reached out to him. Her pitch was successful.
“I never thought that I would have ended up being a teacher or that it would even be an option since I did not major in education,” Peter recalls. “I began to see teaching as something I could be good at and would find rewarding. I had a really positive education experience in high school and especially at Bucknell, so I was excited at the prospect of helping other students have the opportunity to have that kind of an experience.”
A Medford, New Jersey native, Peter is now teaching geometry at US Grant High School in Oklahoma City.
“I have personally heard a lot of people talk about how teaching is such a difficult profession, which is largely true,” says Peter, a four-time Patriot League Academic Honor Roll member who finished fourth in the 10,000 meters at last spring’s Patriot League Championships. “But I feel like I have been prepared well to take this on. One of the things that I learned while running cross country and track is the need to be patient over the course of the season and trust that your training will help you peak at the right time. Right now, I know that I am not the perfect teacher, but I see myself improving every day. I’m trying to instill this same mindset with my students, as I am pushing them to develop more confidence in themselves. Learning from failure and maintaining confidence will not only help them be successful math students but successful in life. My students are definitely what makes all the challenges worth it, and I am excited to continue to learn from them.”
The Bucknell liberal arts education prepares students for success in many walks of life, and non-profit, public-service organizations such as Teach for America provide meaningful ways for our graduates to impact the world. And student-athletes, who have learned so many lessons in leadership and perseverance, are well-suited to pay that knowledge forward to future generations.