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Teach for America program enriches Oklahoma City Public Schools

Oklahoma City Public Schools has doubled the number of Teach for America teachers in the district this year.
BY CARRIE COPPERNOLL Published: January 7, 2013

Ripple effect

Swanson, the Capitol Hill teacher, said he hopes to see a ripple effect from Teach for America in Oklahoma.

Even those who don't continue teaching will be able to advocate for education as policymakers, parents, volunteers and community leaders, he said. They can join those who already work to help children.

“It's part of what can be a more unified movement,” he said.

For his last semester, Swanson is focusing on his students and helping them pass their classes and state-mandated end-of-instruction exams.

Last year, he taught juniors and seniors.

This year, he only has sophomores.

The bulletin boards of his chilly classroom are covered with vocabulary words reminders, like analyze and theme.

He said he spends about 75 percent of his class time focusing on reading and the other 25 percent on writing.

“A lot of my students, for them, English is a second language,” Swanson said. “That can be a difficulty, and it can be difficult to build student confidence.”

Cycle of self-defeat

For some, confidence is a problem. They aren't supported by their families at home.

They haven't had as much support in the classroom as they need. They don't believe in themselves. Swanson and other teachers try to break that cycle of self-defeat.

“All my students are capable under the right circumstances,” Swanson said.

He's gotten to know students personally. Some come from difficult and scary home lives. Others have survived harrowing pasts.

“It can be hard,” he said. “It also makes me respect them a lot. I see kids dealing with things that I don't know how I would handle. It's hard on one hand to see that, but for me, it makes it clear how important this work is.”