Benton Brown, CCAS BA ’09, is no stranger to doing work that helps those in need. After he graduated from GW in 2009, Brown joined Teach for America, the popular national teacher corps of recent college graduates. He taught math in a struggling high school on the Arkansas side of the Mississippi Delta.
And now, Brown is the director of a new teaching initiative in his home state, the Arkansas Teachers Corps (ATC).
Similar to Teach for America, ATC is focused on placing teachers in high-need areas throughout Arkansas. The program is open to any individual with a bachelor’s degree.
After completing Teach for America and teaching high school math in Northwest Arkansas, Brown was tapped to join ATC in 2012. By fall of that year, the organization was recruiting applicants from across the state.
Part of what makes the ATC program unique is that its Fellows will not only teach in the districts where they are placed, but they will also become an active part of the community, through partnerships that ATC has fostered. Fellows also commit to the mission for three years—many similar programs require two years of service.
In addition, the program’s training model includes methods that are unique to the needs of the districts and the state of Arkansas. “Our model will have a strong emphasis on on-going training and evaluation to make sure that we are preparing our Fellows for success,” says Brown.
ATC plans to have 30 – 40 Teaching Fellows in classrooms by August 2013 and 100 fellows across the state within three years.
As director, Brown has been heavily involved in recruiting Fellows and developing key program logistics, including a selection process, teacher training, district placements and on-going teacher preparation.
Selecting qualified and dedicated applicants is a crucial piece of the program’s design—and as an Arkansas native, choosing the right people hits close to home for Brown.
“We believe that the state of Arkansas presents a distinct set of circumstances that requires a unique approach,” says Brown. “ATC actively recruits graduates with a specific tie to the state because we believe that those individuals will be the most dedicated to helping students in our state.”
Brown and the ATC team received nearly 100 applications by the early decision deadline in January. The application period closes this month.
Brown, who married fellow GW grad Megan Hayes, CCAS BA ’09, in 2011, is dedicated to his home state and the mission of ATC, but he credits GW for helping to expand his horizons and perspective.
“I had never lived outside of Arkansas before attending GW,” explains Brown. “The experiences and education I gained at GW gave me a foundation of knowledge and life experiences that will stick with me forever. GW was a melting pot of new individuals and ideas that played a key role in shaping the ambitions I have today.”
Brown looks forward putting his ambition to use with the Arkansas Teachers Corps—and with good reason. The organization’s story has been picked up by several media outlets, including this recent story in USA Today.
As Brown and the ATC team work to select the best Fellows for the program’s first year, everyone is filled with excitement for the program’s next phase.
“I can’t wait to see the impact our Fellows will be able to make,” Brown says. “I was able to see firsthand the difference a teacher can make in a student’s life. I look forward to our Fellows having that same experience by helping students in Arkansas achieve their dreams.”