08/02/2010
Teacher Tribute
Teach for America's Joe Moorman reflects on his year with Need in Deed

“I have a sense now of what’s possible, what kids can learn and do with a great teacher.”

“It was November,” Joe Moorman recalls, “and my students had narrowed their focus down to three possible issues: child abuse, animal abuse and kids with cancer. I suggested they work in teams to develop a 3 to 5 minute presentation to convince the others to choose their topic [as the focus for their yearlong Need in Deed project.]

“I stood back and I watched,” he recalls. “Students were running back and forth between the different groups. They were excited, engaged. Some were working on PowerPoints; others were making posters. It just took off on its own. I felt like I was in a corporate office and the staff was preparing for a big project.”

Last year Joe was one of five Teach for America (TFA) alums at Stetson Middle School, where he taught 8th grade.

“As I was wrapping up the school year I kept thinking about how I might have done things differently to be even more effective. I learned more every year I taught. I figured if I stayed for 4 or 5 years, I could be really awesome.”

And, he concludes, he still may go back. But for now, he has taken on a new challenge. Having spent three years as a classroom teacher, two of those as a member of the TFA corps, Joe was recently named Manager of Development for TFA’s Philadelphia office.

He now has total control of his time, “and that’s nice,” he says. But he misses the pace of the classroom, the opportunity to work directly with kids.

“Need in Deed was one of the sources of fulfillment for me and for my students in my third year,” Joe recalls. “It drove me to be more creative, more engaging. I felt a sense of what was possible.”

There are a variety of ways to measure the effectiveness of a great teacher, he says. Many turn to quantitative measures: “80% mastery of content,” etc. Need in Deed, he thought, seemed more interested in the qualitative – students liking school well enough to stay, discovering a career, developing new skills.

While he agrees he will miss the classroom, Joe intends to use his passion for education to fuel his work with TFA.

“I have a sense now of what’s possible, what kids can learn and do with a great teacher.”

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