The primary goal of education is to light a fire in every student to commit to a lifetime of character and knowledge, Lawrence Reed, president of the Foundation For Economic Education, told a cohort of new teachers at the American Teacher Initiative’s (ATI) summer institute held at the University of Dallas.
“A good teacher can impart considerable information, but his or her main contribution to another person’s life is to instill the love of learning. That is at the core of the life of character, and this is what this program aims to do,” he said.
Reed used the Roman Republic as a key example, which he argues fell apart because Romans abandoned virtue. He sees a similar effect at work in the United States, and believes that programs like ATI are an essential part of stemming the tide against national disintegration.
Created in partnership with Texas-based charter operator ResponsiveEd, ATI recruits educators with degrees in core subject areas such as Latin, English, math, history and science. ATI’s goal is to provide schools with individuals who can teach with quality and foster the knowledge, liberty and virtue necessary for the flourishing of a free society.
Loammi Caros helped launch the program in 2015. There are now more than 40 teachers in the program.
“We are very excited about this year’s teaching cohort. Some of them just finished their
undergraduate degree, while others have a master’s degree or have spent some time in the workforce, but all have a passion for teaching,” she said.
A member of the 2017 teaching cohort, Christian Pynaert had not considered the possibility
of becoming a teacher when he was completing his undergraduate degree in American Studies at Hillsdale College in Michigan. However, after graduation he realized he had a passion for challenging young people to develop character. He started looking for teaching opportunities, and he found ATI.
“I think ATI is a great program. It teaches you not only philosophically but also practically, how to make a difference for students. If you are thinking about teaching and don’t know how to get started, but have a passion, ATI can help you. I don’t have a background in education, but I have a passion for education, and they helped me achieve that goal,” said Pynaert.
Once they were accepted into ATI, the future teachers started a two-week summer institute where they spent one week at the University of Dallas discussing teaching knowledge, virtue, liberty and American founding principles in the classroom as well as classroom management and teaching in title one schools. During this week they heard from Lawrence Reed, President of the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE); Dr. Derek K. Yonai, Managing Director of the O’Neil Center for Global Markets and Freedom at Southern Methodist University (SMU); Rachel Davison, Senior Manager of Education and Outreach at the Bill of Rights Institute; and Dr. Louis Markos, Professor of English at Houston Baptist University.
The second week of the institute took place at Founders Classical Academy of Lewisville where they worked one-on-one with experienced master teachers to develop their classroom management skills, gather resources and prepare for the upcoming school year.
Elizabeth Nied, one of the master teachers says, “The summer institute will really benefit them and get them ready for the first day of school. We take care of the bare basics of how to manage the classroom, which is really unusual because a lot of people teach that content comes second. The training they receive gets them going, but the reality is that every class is different and every year you have to change things up.”
Nied has been teaching for more than 17 years and wishes she had had a program like ATI available when she first started teaching.
“We welcomed three ATI teachers to our campus last year. As a result of our initial experience, we have added a few more for the coming school year,” says Jason Caros, headmaster at Founders Classical Academy of Lewisville.
Caros says his school has benefited from the quality candidates who had the background needed for teaching at a school that prioritizes teaching content knowledge and character as well as the ATI summer training that enabled them to hit the ground running. He also values the ongoing mentoring and constructive feedback ATI provides its teachers during the school year, which has helped them develop into successful teachers.
At this time, teachers in the ATI cohort are placed in the schools of its key partner, charter school operator ResponsiveEd, but has plans to expand to other districts. In August, Pynaert hopes to draw from the resources and insights he gained during the summer institute as he begins teaching eighth and ninth grade history at Corinth Classical Academy, a ResponsiveEd charter school.