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NMSU students scour campus to recruit teachers to send out across the country

A great teacher can motivate, inspire and nurture students in the classroom and in life. Research shows effective teachers are among the most important factors affecting student achievement. Two New Mexico State University students are on a mission to help recruit those kinds of teachers for classrooms across the country.



Government major Zach Quintero and Mike Lynam, a junior studying secondary education, are NMSU co-coordinators for Teach for America. The nonprofit organization's goal is to close the achievement gap for the nation's students. (NMSU photo by Tonya Suther)

Government major Zach Quintero and Mike Lynam, a junior studying secondary education, are the first campus co-coordinators for Teach for America at NMSU. The nonprofit organization's goal is to close the achievement gap for the nation's students. A recent report from the National Center for Education Statistics ranked New Mexico fourth graders' math scores lower than the national average. Quintero and Lynam hope that recruiting college students into the two-year teaching program will help change these statistics.

"More than 15 million children are living in poverty and New Mexico ranks nearly last in academic achievement," Lynam said. "It's a burden on us to try and spread awareness. We want the people recruited for Teach for America at NMSU to come back to New Mexico and do their corps program here, like in Gallup and other rural areas where it's needed the most."

Upon graduation, the teachers are sent to mostly rural or urban low-income areas in 43 different regions across the country where they'll teach in more than 10 different subjects in grades PreK-12. During the two-year period, these teachers work closely with program coordinators and advisers to ensure effectiveness.

"This is something I want to be a part of, something bigger than myself," Lynam said. "One person really can make that difference."

Lynam, who came to NMSU from northern New Mexico, plans to go into the two-year teacher corps program when he graduates. He hopes to return home to Rio Rancho and teach language arts at his old high school. Tutoring students for the Las Cruces public school system inspired him to sign up.

Quintero, a Las Cruces native, joined the program because his family understands the value of teaching. His mother and some of his cousins are teachers. Quintero serves as co-president of International Security Studies Organization (ISSO), is a member of the Model United Nations, a senator for the College of Arts and Sciences and a member of the College Democrats.

"I want to go into public policy, so I factor in the prospect of the future of not only the United States, but this state as well," Quintero said. "A sound education secures your future. It's what makes sure you're actually progressing in society."

For recruitment, the coordinators reach out to various student organizations such as sororities, fraternities and honors programs. They also give classroom presentations to get the word out to students in all colleges across the campus. Only one in six Teach for America recruits is an education major.

"It's a weight for us laying the foundation for this program, but at the same time, it's something that gives us motivation," Quintero said. "If you want to set a precedent, then you'd better do it right."

Quintero and Lynam both applied for the single position with Teach for America at NMSU, and out of the 30 applicants, they were selected to work as a team for the 2011-2012 academic year.

This year, Teach for America will have more than 9,300 recruits teaching 600,000 students nationwide. So far, Quintero and Lynam have 15 applicants for the program. Their goal is to recruit 30 members by the end of the semester.

"We're taking the initiative, we're being leaders to actually promote this cause, and we're doing this because we believe that NMSU has those leaders," Quintero said. "We have faith in our students to actually want to take that first step in changing not only their state, but their county in the process."

Quintero said students interested in applying for the Teach for America program should expect a rigorous interview process to include an interview panel and problem solving group sessions.

The minimum requirements for applying to the Teach for America corps are a bachelor's degree and a 2.5 grade point average. For more information about the Teach for America program or to apply, visit http://www.teachforamerica.org/, or contact Zach Quintero at 575-202-8118 or qstudent@nmsu.edu.