Today's spotlight feature is 2018 corps member Eric Saldanha! Eric is a senior majoring in Management, Government and Business Honors Program; next fall, he'll be working as a teacher in Houston in a YES prep school! During his time at UT, he's been heavily involved with the Undergraduate Business Council, Student Government, and has also served as a tour guide with the Guides of Texas.
Eric first learned about Teach for America while he was in high school. "It struck me because of the novelty of its premise. It was taking new college grads and putting them into a classroom, almost like peace corps for teachers. I’ve loved teaching my whole life so I could see myself doing it early on." It was during this time that Eric began seeing the effects of educational inequity within his own school. "I noticed that in high school I saw stratification in the types of classes that people were taking There were a group of students taking AP classes and there was another group taking regular classes and they didn’t really interact with one another. It was shocking to see this stratum in a single school and I began to wonder why that was. I did debate and I saw the same thing in a variety of different schools. "
During his time at UT, his involvements with Student Government and the Guides of Texas opened his eyes further to the long-term effects of inequity. "This past year I’ve been involved in student government. The work really exposed me to the advocacy work that needs to be done and that can only be done when you have an understanding of the community that the policy affects. For example, we talked about transportation policy and how students in Riverside are affected differently than students closer to campus. I’ve also been involved with the UBC and seen the diversity of students that come to UT. It’s interesting to see how professors view students from different regions of Texas and how they work with these students as a result.” As a tour guide, Eric interacts with students from all corners of Texas and beyond. What he noticed the most were differences in priorities in the many types of students. "The experience was illuminating because you get to see students from all different communities in Texas. You can tell a lot about the questions they ask; some students ask about Kevin Durant while another group asks about average class size. It opened my eyes to how early students need to be exposed to college and start building a portfolio of skills that can guide them in the direction they want to go to.”
For students considering doing Teach for America, Eric says to have conversations with as many different types of people as possible. "I think the best thing you can do is have conversations with people who are doing it or considering it or are an alum. A lot of the decisions I have made have been the product of conversations and this one conversation can change your life or your next couple years. Hearing from their experiences is the best thing you can do." He also advises people who're interviewing and applying to be themselves. "It’s really easy to fit yourself into the mold of what you think TFA is looking for. But I rejected a lot of the advice and did what I wanted to do and reflect myself as who I am. I chose a topic that many people told me not to do and that I was passionate about. Even though it was more complex than usual, my interviewer saw my energy and my passion for the topic. Do your best to illuminate yourself through the interview process."
After his time at Teach for America, Eric will either pursue healthcare consulting or potentially attain a masters degree in public health, business administration, or go to law school. We're so excited to see what Eric does in the classroom!
Stay tuned for more 2018 Corps Member features each week! If you have any interest in applying, talk to our Recruitment Manager, Jorge Galan. He can be reached at Jorge.Galan@teachforamerica.org.