From the Front Lines: Deloitte & Teach for America
Kristen Brown shares her experience
Deloitte has teamed with Teach For America, a non-profit organization dedicated to expanding and increasing the quality of education in public schools. Deloitte provides employment deferrals and full-time career opportunities in specific business areas for qualified applicants who are current or former participants of the program. We recognize the extraordinary contributions of Teach For America, as well as the caliber of leaders the program attracts and produces. Kristen Brown, an analyst in the Human Capital practice of Deloitte Consulting LLP, is one such leader.
After graduating from Washington and Lee University, Kristen spent two years working for Teach For America as a ninth grade mathematics teacher. While giving back to her community, Kristen developed and enhanced valuable business proficiencies.
Read more about Kristen’s Teach For America experience below, where she discusses the connection between her corps experience and professional work.
How has your Teach For America experience impacted your life and helped you grow personally?
I went into my two-year Teach For America commitment knowing that I wanted to pursue business in the long-term, and left with an experience that taught me about the inequities students face every day. I quickly learned about the educational disparities that left my students grade levels behind.
I will never forget when I found out that I was assigned to teach a “double-dose” math class. This is a class that ninth graders take, at the same time as Algebra 1, when they are testing below a fifth-grade level. I was shocked that this accounted for nearly 85 percent of my students. My ninth grade students were — on average — testing at a fourth-grade level, and I was being placed three days before the start of school.
I quickly witnessed countless examples of systemic inequity. At the beginning of the year, it isn’t uncommon to see more than 40 students in a classroom, many without a desk. I didn’t have textbooks for the first six months of teaching. In October of my second year of teaching, I found out at 4 p.m. that my job no longer existed and that I needed to select a new school by 8 a.m. the next day because of budget crises.
While I’m no longer in the classroom, my Teach For America experience profoundly influenced my life and instilled in me a life-long passion to fight educational inequities.
How has your Teach For America experience prepared you for life at Deloitte?
The Teach For America mission is two-fold. The first expectation is that corps members will commit to teaching two years in a low-income school in the short-term, and the long-term expectation is that corps members will then go on to attack educational inequities from all industries and professions. Corps members who join Deloitte are able to develop professional skills that are invaluable in attacking educational inequity on a systemic level.
Looking back, even though I postponed my entry into business for two years, I feel that coming to Deloitte after Teach For America only provided me with a skill-set that better positioned me for success in consulting. Specifically, the Teach For America experience provides corps members with critical thinking skills. As a corps member you are constantly using a data-driven approach to diagnose problems in your classroom and then systematically working to solve those problems. This cycle of diagnosing/assessing, designing a solution and then implementing it, honed critical thinking techniques that mirror the skills I use now as a consultant.
Teach For America also provided me with professional “client-facing” experience. Every day I was presenting to an audience of 120 students and working to manage my own miniature organization: my classroom. I was interacting with fellow teachers and administrators, which improved my presence and provided me with experiences that I would not have had if I had joined Deloitte straight out of undergrad.
Finally, Teach For America taught me to be organized, flexible, adaptable to change and comfortable with ambiguity. This has been invaluable during my time at Deloitte. Since client demands are often high, organizational skills, as well as the ability to prioritize, have been crucial. I also constantly find myself having to make last-minute changes to meet client requests. Teach For America has certainly helped me learn to be adaptable, as well as poised in stressful situations.
As used in this document, ‘Deloitte’ means Deloitte LLP (and its subsidiaries). Please see www.deloitte.com/us/about for a detailed description of the legal structure of Deloitte LLP and its subsidiaries.