PRESTONSBURG — Taylor Ballinger, the director of community partnerships for Teach for America’s Appalachian Region, stopped by the Floyd County Rotary Club’s Thursday meeting to explain his organization’s role in promoting better education and leadership among Floyd County youth.
Teach for America is a nonprofit that chooses college graduates who demonstrate an aptitude for leadership and furnishes them with the training and support they need to become great teachers in low-income regions of the country. Already in Floyd County, the group has gotten six teachers to work in Betsy Layne, four in South Floyd, one at Allen Central and two at Prestonsburg High.
Some of them are found locally, as their understanding of local culture can provide important context for understanding students. Others come from across the country, bringing a fresh new perspective that students may not have gotten otherwise.
These teachers are community leaders outside the classroom as well. They coach sports, academic teams, and even initiate new programs. One from Prestonsburg High School has started a quarterly literary journal, and a teacher placed at South Floyd began SWAG, an organization aimed at getting girls in touch with successful local women to act as mentors.
The group’s goal, Ballinger says, is to create a positive cycle of identifying strong leaders in the area and getting them in the classroom, to help train the next generation and teach them that regions like Eastern Kentucky can make a great place to call home and be successful.
In exchange for the training and support, graduates of the program must teach at least two years where they are hired. The group’s reach into this region is now entering its third year, and 100% of the teachers it has placed in Floyd County have agreed to stay on after serving their two-year commitment.
Those interested in learning more about the group’s efforts can call the Appalachia Region office at (859) 321-6291 or visit teachforamerica.org.