Congratulations Class of 2010

The Senior Year Experience

Congratulations to Valerie Brown, Amy Cohen, Ariel Cohen, Ashley Kendig, Rebekka Shaak, and Jess Swerdloff for being offered positions with Teach for America, a national organization committed to teaching students in low-income communities!

Learn more about some of the seniors:
Amy Cohen - Teacher/Corps Member, Baton Rouge, LA
Ariel Cohen - Teacher/Corps Member, Philadelphia, PA
Rebekka Shaak - Teacher/Corps Member, Memphis, TN
Jess Swerdloff - Teacher/Corps Member, Rio Grande, TX

The Importance of Community: Amy Cohen

Senior Amy Cohen will be a secondary social studies teacher as a Teacher/Corps Member for Teach for America in Baton Rouge, LA, while simultaneously attending Louisiana State University, where she hopes to obtain her master's degree. Cohen received full tuition to attend Louisiana State University as part of a Teach For America scholarship program. Cohen, an English and political science double major, hopes to attain a master's degree in perhaps English or education policy, where she could focus and have a concentration on literacy rates. Cohen's excellent academic record was noticed by Teach for America, as they recruited her while she was abroad last year studying in Scotland. Teach for America saw an exceptional potential in Cohen, thus recruiting her to be a part of this elite program. Teach for America requires a two year commitment, so they accept students who will make an impact on a child's life through exceptional teaching skills. Cohen is a prime example of what Teach for America stands for.

Cohen first heard about Teach for America through the Career Center, and she was very impressed, so she conducted her own research by reading articles and looking on their website. After being recruited, Cohen had a phone interview last April, and she officially submitted her application in February 2010. Cohen was accepted in March.

Cohen believes in Teach for America's mission statement to go above and beyond to help students from low-income communities to overcome educational inequity in schools as Cohen says, "It is a great idea, the educational reform in Louisiana to close the education gap."

Teach for America looks for students who exemplify outstanding leadership roles both in and outside the classroom. Cohen not only has a strong academic background, but she is a strong member of the Muhlenberg community. Cohen is a student-athlete at Muhlenberg who plays on the volleyball team. Cohen is also on the Student Athlete Advisor Committee and a member of the community service fraternity on campus, APO. In addition, for the past six summers or so, Cohen has been a lifeguard and swim instructor at a camp with swimmers ranging in the ages of two years old to almost 70 years old. She has worked with a wide range of people, including special needs children, so she understand the values of commitment, compassion and understanding that Teach for America promotes.

Cohen also was accepted last year to the St. Andrew's Society. The Foundation of the St. Andrew's Society of Philadelphia offers five undergraduate scholarships for study abroad students at the Universities of Edinburgh, St. Andrew's, Aberdeen, or Glasgow in Scotland. In order to be considered for the St. Andrew's Society, applicants must be in the top quarter of their class. Muhlenberg nominates only one candidate per year for this distinguished award, so the fact that Cohen was awarded this renowned scholarship is a true honor and recognition of her exceptional scholarship; she studied for a full year at the University of Edinburgh. Teach for America recognized the same attributes in Cohen, thus her acceptance into this national organization of college graduates.

Cohen received assistance through the Career Center, as they helped to prepare her with interview skills such as interview workshops and mock interviews. Cohen also has a strong support system from Muhlenberg faculty, consisting of Dr. Stephen of the English department, Dr. Herrick of the political science department and Professor Albert of the religion department. These professors offered constant support for Cohen through her entire application process, and they continue to be encouraging and helpful now, as she prepares to transition from Muhlenberg.

Cohen acknowledges Muhlenberg as it instills the importance of community service, which she believes has had a great influence on her desire to help students through Teach for America. Cohen looks forward to move this June to Louisiana, and is anxious to learn where, exactly, she will be hired. Nonetheless, Cohen is excited for this new chapter in her life and knows Muhlenberg has prepared her well to teach others. Cohen plans to take the praxis test for teaching the end of April. Beginning in June, Cohen will have summer school from 8 am – 2 pm, and then her classes at Institute for her teacher's certification from 4 pm- 10 pm. Cohen will do an exceptional job and step up to the challenge of teaching students from low-income communities because Muhlenberg and her past experiences have her poised to succeed in the Teach for America program.

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We All Deserve an Education: Ariel Cohen

Senior Ariel Cohen has signed a two-year contract to work as a Teacher/Corps Member for Teach for America in Philadelphia, PA. Cohen, a neuroscience major and French minor, will be teaching middle school science. His strong academics and leadership qualities have led him to this path, and his goal like the goal of Teach for America is to help bring an end to educational inequity to students who face the challenges of poverty and limited educational opportunities.

Teach for America, a national organization of college graduates to teach in urban and rural public schools, looks for individuals who have strong attributes in their lives through their academics, work, extracurricular activities and volunteer work. Cohen heard about Teach for America through an email sent by the Career Center. He was then recruited last year by Teach for America by Teach for America recruiters Jessica Gasper and Kim Buehring because they believed he would be an asset to the program. By January, he submitted his application for the deadline and shortly afterwards, he was invited for a final interview. Cohen's acceptance into the Corps is an ultimate recognition of his character.

Cohen is a learning assistant at Muhlenberg, which has made an immense impact on his life because he sees what a difference he makes when helping other students. As a learning assistant, Cohen works with students to help them develop an understanding of the key principles of a particular course. Cohen says, "We all deserve education, and there should be a constant source of stability for students in schools." Cohen hopes to make the same impact on the students in Philadelphia. He believes in Teach for America's mission statement to go above and beyond to help students from low-income communities to overcome educational inequity in schools. Far too often you see teachers and students giving up on one another, so Cohen wants to step up to this challenge and ultimately make a difference in students' lives.

Cohen's decision to teach for Teach for America was encouraged also by fellow Corps members, especially one member, who, like Cohen, teaches in a middle school in Philadelphia while attending graduate school. Cohen plans to follow this same path as he plans to teach and attend graduate school at the same time.

Cohen is very thrilled to be a part of such a desirable and competitive program, but he also recognizes how it is also a very tough and demanding job that will require complete dedication. Cohen will be joined by other students participating in the program, so he is looking forward to this transition after graduation because he will have a great support network.

Cohen appreciates Muhlenberg because it is an honor to be a part of this program and to see how many Muhlenberg students have been accepted to teach; it truly exemplifies the values that Muhlenberg promotes. Cohen will move to Philadelphia this summer for his six weeks of training of summer school work, workshops and setting goals for teaching the students. Cohen's next step after Teach for America is hoping to apply for medical school, but as for now he looks forward to teach with the goal of making a difference in a student's life. Only the future can tell what path he will end up on, but Cohen is just going to take it day by day and devote his time and energy into his students.

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The Future of Today: Rebekka Shaak

Senior Rebekka Shaak will be a high school Spanish teacher as a Teacher/Corps Member for Teach For America in Memphis, TN. Shaak, a Spanish and Media & Communication double major, has always had the strong desire to work with youth and teach Spanish. Shaak's desires to teach, along with her strong academics and leadership characteristics, have led her to Teach For America. Shaak has seen first-hand how poor today's education programs can be and she hopes that by working for Teach For America, she can help bring an end to educational inequality in Memphis.

Shaak embodies Teach For America's mission. Teach For America is a national organization that looks for individuals that possess strong academics and who are involved in their communities. Shaak has been a camp counselor as well as a tennis instructor for children and teenagers for the past few years. She thoroughly enjoys working with youth and helping them realize their potential.

When Shaak first heard about Teach For America through a friend last spring, she immediately became interested. From that point, she began to research the program and applied this past winter. By January, she was invited for a final interview. Shaak participated in the intense interview process in Philadelphia, PA, with 10-12 other highly-qualified applicants, where she had to present a five minute lesson plan in front of other candidates. Shaak did an excellent job and she was accepted into the program in March.

At Muhlenberg, Shaak is the president of her a cappella group, The Chaimonics, and tutors Spanish for the Academic Resource Center. As mentioned earlier, Shaak has had a lot of experience working with youth as a camp counselor, tennis instructor and volunteer. Two notable experiences that led her to pursue Teach For America were working with inner-city youth at her local YMCA and at a summer school in Chicago.

Shaak looks forward to teaching in Memphis and believes this is the time in her life to give back. Shaak has seen the discrepancy in the quality of education throughout the United States and she wants to make a difference. Shaak says, "I expect it to be a challenge, but I know it will be the hardest job that I will ever love."

Shaak is very excited to be a part of Teach For America, and it is remarkable that so many students from Muhlenberg have been accepted into this competitive program.

Shaak will travel to Memphis this summer for an official induction into the program before flying to Atlanta, Georgia for five weeks of training and workshops to prepare her to teach in the fall. By the beginning of August, she will be settled in Memphis and ready to start teaching Spanish.

Shaak encourages others to consider Teach For America. She anticipates that it will be an extraordinary experience and a once in a lifetime chance to give back by devoting a small part of her life to helping the youth of today.

As far as her plans after Teach For America, Shaak isn't thinking too far ahead. She says, "I always try to keep my mind open to new possibilities. That's something I've learned from having a well-rounded liberal arts education."

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Hoping to Make a Change: Jess Swerdloff

Senior Jessica Swerdloff will be working as a Teacher/Corps Member for Teach for America in Rio Grande Valley, Texas. Teach for America is a national organization of college graduates who devote two years to teach in urban and rural public schools in economically depressed areas. Swerdloff, an English and Spanish major, will put her academic background to strong use when teaching in a high percentage Latino community. She is excited to develop educational opportunities for those underprivileged students, who come from low-income families.

Teach for America is a very competitive program, and Swerdloff is honored to have been accepted. She went through a highly intensive interview process, but her hard work throughout the years paid off. So, how did Swerdloff end up on this path to Teach for America?

Well, she was not always sure exactly what she wanted to do. She came into Muhlenberg as an English and Spanish major, and she interned in Washington, D.C., last spring, where she then contemplated whether she wanted to apply to law school after graduation. However, the thought of teaching was always in the back of her mind. A Spanish tutor, a writing tutor, a writing assistant and a student advisor, Swerdloff always loved to teach students and act as a liaison between students and faculty. Swerdloff truly values her tutoring sessions. She says, "When you see the light go off for one of your students, then that is the best feeling in the world." Swerdloff finds great satisfaction when she sees progress and improvements made by the students she tutors, and she is excited to make a difference in the lives of the students in Rio Grande Valley.

Once Swerdloff became interested in Teach for America, she discussed the option with two of her professors, Dr. Rosenwasser of the English department and Dr. Sutherland of the Spanish department. Each strongly encouraged her to participate, and they ultimately wrote her two letters of recommendation.

Once Swerdloff had decided to apply for the program, she knew the Career Center would be an excellent resource. First, she contacted the recruiter for Teach for America, and found out what she can to do to prepare for the application process. The Career Center helped her by conducting mock interviews, which were extremely good preparation for Swerdloff's day-long interview. She applied during the first of five deadlines, and she was accepted in November.

Swerdloff's past experience will help her as she adjusts to the job of teaching. She had interned in Washngton, D.C., where she took two courses along with an internship from 8 am- 5 pm, four days of the week. This internship experience prepared her to live on her own, and gave her a taste of reality with a steady work schedule while balancing school work, too. In addition, back home in New Jersey, she worked in management at Wegman's, which helped her to deal with customer service and to hone her communication skills. Swerdloff compares teaching to customer service, in the sense that one must have patience with people and overcome barriers to reach resolutions.

Swerdloff is very excited about the transition after graduation, but she is, of course, nervous. It will be a big change to move for two years to Texas, but she knows it will be such a rewarding experience. She must be in Texas, by June 9 to start her six weeks of training, which consists of summer school work, workshops and setting goals for teaching the students. Swerdloff has been in contact with recent graduates in Teach for America down in Texas, so she is already bonding with her peers. She expects a culture shock, but knows she has the support of her colleagues. She will be outside her element, but she anticipates an extraordinary experience.

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