Leading the Educational Revolution


Since its arrival in the Rio Grande Valley 23 years ago, Teach for America has brought over 1,000 teachers that are committed to providing a high quality education to the underserved in this area. The program’s model has proven to be very effective. According to the 2013 National Principal Survey, 95 percent of principals working with Teach for America corps members felt that these teachers made a positive difference in their school. A report by Mathematica Policy Research found that students taught by Teach For America teachers made an annual progress in math equivalent to 2.6 additional years of learning. In the recent years, Teach for America has experienced a huge growth spurt in the Rio Grande Valley. In 2014, the amount of TFA corps in the area tripled from 30 to 90. Eighty-one percent of the program’s alumni remain in education-related positions. Dr. SantaPaula Garcia attributes the program’s success to the diversity and commitment of TFA corps members, as well as their participation in over 100 hours of professional development courses each year.


Dr. Garcia strongly believes that the only way to eliminate educational inequality in an area where only 12 percent of public school students earn some type of degree after high school is by having dedicated teachers that will change their students’ mindset that higher education is out of reach.

As the new executive director for Teach for America in the Rio Grande Valley, Dr. Garcia will be responsible for the daily management of the organization, building community partnerships, and cultivating public and private foundation support. One of her top goals is to expand the program’s Board of Directors so they are able to tell the story of Teach for America in the area and how it will remain committed to being an active participant in improving economic conditions in the Rio Grande Valley through education. She hopes to continue expanding program participants from 90 to 150 annually within the next few years. One of her top priorities as a director is to create opportunities where Teach for America corps can continue developing their leadership skills to obtain higher-level positions in the field of education.

Although educational inequality in the Rio Grande Valley cannot be fixed overnight, Dr. Garcia strongly believes that the landscape of education can be changed through partnerships with other educational institutions. “We are not in competition with other institutions. We are all working with a common goal in mind for our students,” says Garcia. “I want to ensure that every single child in our classrooms has the opportunities I happened to have because I had great teachers.”