Bradley alum discusses his experience with Teach for America

Ben Koch wasn’t in the same boat as most of his peers in the class of 2010.

In fact, he had three solid job offers by April of last year. But it didn’t take too long to make a decision.

The former English major accepted an offer to join Teach For America, the national organization that places top college graduates as teachers in the hardest to staff school districts in the nation.

“I decided to join Teach For America … because of the impact I could make,” he said. “All other job opportunities were focused only on me, what I could do to help myself, on how I could get ahead.”

TFA, though, was different. It opened the door for him to help others.

Koch was heavily involved while on campus. He served a term as student body vice president. He was a resident assistant and eventually the Heitz Hall director.

“Being part of many diverse organizations at Bradley definitely helped prepare me for my experiences with Teach For America,” he said. “There’s not a day that goes by where I don’t think of some experience in greek life or Residential Living and how it is applied to my classroom.”

Today, he teaches English at a middle school in Las Vegas.

It’s a school where the vast majority of students receive free or reduced-price lunches, which is a measurement of students’ families’ incomes.

“The greatest challenge I face each day is knowing that even when I give my all, there is still so much to give,” he said.

Some days are better than others, which is typical in any field. But the stakes can be so much higher when a child’s future depends on their teacher.

“The greatest reward is seeing a child finally get something after struggling with it,” Koch said. “We did classroom reading evaluations recently. It was awesome to see students invested in their learning and celebrating their growth.”

Three other members of Bradley’s class of 2010 joined Teach For America, though not all remained with the program. This year’s application process is still ongoing, so exact numbers of admitted students aren’t available, though 20 members of the class of 2011 applied.

Koch’s advice for those considering the program is simple: Apply.

“Even if you’re not 100 percent sure that you want to teach, apply,” he said. “There are countless classrooms across the country where students are in need of excellent teachers. I think those students would be lucky to have a Bradley graduate in their class.”