1,100 Gather in Philadelphia for Inaugural TEACH Town Hall

Cross-posted from the TEACH.gov blog.

The throng of students and teachers in line at the Temple University performing arts complex stretched nearly two blocks on Monday for the first official TEACH event since the campaign launched in September. Full classes gathered from Temple and Drexel University– a public health class, a German class, and several Education classes – as well as an assortment of university and high school students from around the city of Philadelphia.

We encountered many students who waited up to an hour to see the panel discussion about teachers hosted by Temple, which featured Secretary Duncan, Philadelphia Superintendent Arlene Ackerman, actor turned teacher Tony Danza, whose first year teaching was chronicled on the A&E series Teach: Tony Danza, fifth-year mathematics teacher Muhammad Al-Ahmar, and seventh-year fourth grade teacher Diane Honor.

Some of these students, including Shannon Lutz were education majors, already interested in a career in teaching. Shannon told us she was inspired to teach elementary school special education in high school, when she participated in the Best Buddies program, which creates a community for helping individuals with intellectual disabilities.

Other students waited to hear the Secretary and the other panelists speak, even though they weren’t originally considering careers in teaching. Emily Butler, an anthropology major, waited 45 minutes because she was interested in what the Secretary had to say about the future of education.

Nearly 500 Philadelphia high school students also joined the crowd, many of whom attend Northeast High School, the school where Danza taught during his first year.

In sum, over 1,100 students and teachers participated in a spirited discussion about the teaching profession. Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, and A&E and Comcast executives kicked off the event. During the discussion, students raised broad questions about why they should become teachers, as well as specific ones directed towards the panelists about best classroom management techniques. The teachers on the panel emphasized their passion for their profession, and encouraged all the students to consider this profession.

Superintendent Ackerman’s journey to teaching resonated with many of the educators in the audience: “I signed up to become a substitute teacher and that’s when I knew I had to teach,” she said, “I saw so many issues in the classroom that I thought I could fix. And that’s why I am here today. Kids need someone who cares about them. They need someone who has been in the places they have been – to relate to.”

Taryn Benarroch
TEACH, U.S. Department of Education