Lindsay Swain, a 2004 Gardendale High School grad, will teach in Texas for two years through Teach for America.

By Melanie Patterson

The North Jefferson News

Lindsay Swain is choosing the hard road.

Swain, a 2004 graduate of Gardendale High School, will spend two years teaching social studies to students in south Texas.

But teaching is not a part of Swain’s long-term plans. She is taking part in the Teach for America program, where college graduates and other professionals commit to teaching in rural or inner-city public schools for two years.

Swain graduates from the University of Alabama at Birmingham in May with majors in Spanish and international studies.

“I kind of didn’t want to jump right into grad school until I knew what I wanted to do,” said Swain.

She does know that her heart is drawn to those in need.

That, along with her proficiency in Spanish, is why the Rio Grande Valley was Swain’s first choice on where to live and work for two years.

“They have a 97-percent Spanish-speaking population there,” said Swain. “I felt it was more honed to my abilities.”

In Texas, she will be placed in a school teaching somewhere between fourth and eighth grade.

Teach for America staff become certified teachers who are paid by the school system for which they work.

They gain their certification through an intensive six-week training period. Swain starts her training in June.

The training consists of curriculum management and classroom management.

“Ninety percent of us do not have education majors,” said Swain. “What teachers learn in four years, we learn in six weeks.”

Teach for America, a non-profit organization, targets students who are disadvantaged educationally.

“There’s a huge gap between achievement levels from children of poverty-stricken families and those in middle-class families,” said Swain. “The only way to solve this problem is to provide enough teachers to provide quality education.”

Swain’s passion to “combat educational equality” began with a visit to Peru after her freshman year at UAB. She visited again in 2007.

“Each time, I was confronted with the reality of poverty and the social problems it caused within the country,” she said. “After my first trip, I decided to change my major to international studies (from biology).”

Swain said she then “first became interested in social change within my own community through the UAB University Honors Program.”

In that program, the university students partnered with an inner-city school for a service-learning project.

“I experienced socioeconomic disparities through teaching science and writing skills to the students there,” she said. “This is a real problem that is impacting our nation’s children.”

Swain knows that her two years in Texas will be tough, but she is determined.

“I don’t want to go into it without being changed in the end. I know it will change how I look at poverty,” she said. “It will be difficult, but I definitely know it will be worth it if I can change one life and get one kid to go to college.”

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