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Honors College student receives position in Teach For America Program

Jennifer Kiefer, a Louisville senior in the Honors College at WKU, has been offered a position in the highly competitive Teach For America Program. Beginning in the fall semester, Kiefer, an English major, will be teaching secondary mathematics at a school in Nashville, Tenn.

Louisville senior Jennifer Kiefer will be teaching math in Nashville, Tenn., beginning in the fall through the Teach For America program.

Teach For America is comprised of recent college graduates who commit to teaching for two years in some of the nation’s most impoverished urban and rural public schools. Throughout their time in the program, participants become leaders in the continued effort to spread educational equality throughout the country and the world. Since its inception in 1990, Teach For America has become one of the largest suppliers of education professionals to low-income areas.

Kiefer said that she chose to apply for Teach For America because she felt that it was the best fit for her.

“The Teach For America program is focused on community between corps members, within regions, and beyond,” Kiefer said. “They greatly assist you before, during, and after your time in the program through the summer institute, a rigorous five-week teaching preparation, one-on-one assistance and training during your time teaching, and help with graduate school afterward.”

Individuals who are interested in Teach For America must complete a lengthy application process that includes a preliminary online application, a phone interview, a presentation of a prepared lesson plan, a personal interview, a written test, and a group discussion with other applicants. During the progression, applicants are eliminated at each step, and with that, the level of competition elevates.

Kiefer worked closely with the Office of Scholar Development to perfect various parts of her application. Jeanne Sokolowski, former Coordinator of International Scholarships, was thrilled that Kiefer’s diligent work had paid off.

“I was gratified that Jennifer Kiefer took advantage of the resources that the Office of Scholar Development offers. She received feedback on several iterations of her application essay, participated in a mock interview, and listened carefully to suggestions about how to present herself in the best light to the Teach For America selection committee,” Sokolowski said. “Her success reflects not just her stellar academic preparation and enthusiasm for the Teach For America program, but her willingness to seek support and assistance during the application process. In the end, that’s sometimes what it takes to transform a great candidate into an outstanding one.”

Kiefer was grateful to have the Office of Scholar Development for assistance.

“She [Sokolowski] was very thorough and knowledgeable about what type of style and content needed to be present,” Kiefer said. “She also hosted two practice interviews with me, including a phone interview the morning before my final, in-person interview. I feel that my success in gaining acceptance is largely due to her great, generous help.”

During her studies at WKU, Kiefer became involved with various Honors College activities and opportunities for intellectual advancement. Dr. Craig T. Cobane, Executive Director of the Honors College and the Jarve Endowed Professor in Honors, said that he is proud to see students taking advantage of opportunities and succeeding.

“I was not surprised to learn of Jennifer’s acceptance into the program. After conversing with her many times during a study abroad trip to Germany, I could easily tell that she was a very intelligent student,” Dr. Cobane said. “I am sure that it was no problem for the selection committee to see that she was a difference-maker with a great passion for learning and an altruistic interest in improving the lives of the people around her.”

Dr. Cobane added that Kiefer had all of the characteristics that prestigious opportunities such as Teach For America are looking for: high end educational experience, study abroad experience, leadership, and a desire to make a difference. “She exemplifies what the Honors College at WKU looks for in student scholars,” he said.

Historically, less than 20 percent of the applicants are offered a teaching position. Teach For America is often regarded as one of the most competitive post-undergraduate programs in the nation.

Dr. David Bell, Assistant Professor of English at WKU, was pleased with the news and believes that Kiefer will make a positive contribution to the program.

“Jenny is one of our very best students—a hard worker and a passionate, talented writer,” Dr. Bell said. “I have no doubt she will do well in Teach For America. The students will really respond to Jenny’s intelligence and her love for reading and writing.”

During the past few years, WKU has proven to be successful with its Teach For America acceptance rates. Recent WKU alumnus Jennifer Dooper received an offer from Teach For America. Additionally, Dooper was a recipient of a Fulbright Scholarship. She chose to defer Teach For America until the completion of her teaching position in Argentina.

Amy Eckhardt, Director of the Office of Scholar Development, was pleased about these successes.

“We are so proud of these two WKU students, who exemplify ‘the spirit of engaged excellence.’ These gifted scholars have both the commitment to service and demonstrated leadership which made them ideal TFA candidates,” Eckhardt said.

Through opportunities such as Teach For America, students are able to share that “spirit of engaged excellence” with those around them.

“I hope I can give students who may not have been successful before the confidence to learn, achieve goals, and realize that challenges can be overcome,” Kiefer said.

About the Office of Scholar Development: The Office of Scholar Development is committed to helping students on all campuses and in all majors and degree programs develop the vision, experience and skills to be independent, engaged scholars. OSD welcomes the opportunity to work with students interested in the TFA program or other similar opportunities. Call to schedule an appointment with the Office of Scholar Development at (270) 745-5043.

About the Honors College at WKU: WKU is home to the only Honors College in the Commonwealth of Kentucky. Created in 2007, the Honors College at WKU provides an intimate, highly selective learning environment where college-age gifted and high-achieving students can develop the skills to prepare them for success in the nation’s top academic and career opportunities. For more information, please call (270) 745-2081 or contact Drew Mitchell at honors.newsdesk@wku.edu.

Contact: Audra Jennings, (270) 745-5043.

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