Voices: Hear what students are saying about utilizing the Teacher Pledge

In an effort to help bolster Wisconsin’s teacher workforce and give the state’s schoolchildren access to the high-quality educators they deserve, we launched a bold new program

in August 2020: the UW–Madison School of Education Wisconsin Teacher Pledge.

It’s the first program of its kind offered by a public university. Here’s how it works: The initiative “pledges” to provide financial support — including up to in-state tuition, fees, and testing certification costs — for students enrolled in any of the School’s teacher education programs.

In return, after graduating the students “pledge” to teach for three or four years at a pre-kindergarten through 12th grade school in Wisconsin. Students who go on to teach in a high-need school or in a high-need subject area will fulfill their obligation in three years, while all others will do so in four.

We reached out to students utilizing the Teacher Pledge to hear what they had to say about the program and their goals of becoming an educator:

Elementary and Special Education Dual Certification

What inspired you to become a teacher? Megan – Growing up, my mom held various positions in different schools around Madison, so my sisters and I spent a lot of time in them. On the evenings she had late meetings, we would explore whichever school she was working in at the time. It was always fun learning about the values of each school and meeting the students/staff she worked closely with. My mom is a very talented educator and has always inspired me to become one myself.

What was your reaction when you learned about the Teacher Pledge? Abbi – My reaction was just a sigh of relief. I had been stressed out all summer (of 2020) about how I was going to pay for the upcoming school year, so when the university introduced the Teacher Pledge, I just felt so happy and grateful that they were able to establish such a great program that eased financial worries for so many students.

How is the Teacher Pledge making it easier for you to pursue your goal of becoming a teacher? Megan (who graduated in Spring 2021) – The Teacher Pledge has allowed me to fully focus on my academic responsibilities and my growth as an educator.

What’s it like having a sister with similar career aspirations? Abbi (who graduates in Spring 2022) – It is so cool! I am very lucky to have a sister who has similar career aspirations. If I need help on an assignment she is able to support me and understand it, because she had to go through the same courses. Also, if I just want to talk about a topic or issue we covered in one of my classes, we are able to have an insightful conversation because she is well informed on the topics herself.

Secondary Education — Science

How did you hear about the Teacher Pledge, and what was your reaction? The Teacher Pledge was rolled out to my cohort at the end of the summer, and it honestly came as a relief. Even before the pandemic began, supporting myself financially during this year of pre-service teaching was daunting. But the Teacher Pledge put my mind at ease, and additionally it was encouraging to see this institution invest in teachers and in the future. …

Once I have my own classroom, I will be free of that very same financial stress that would have followed me for quite possibly a number of years. I can go forward knowing that I can dedicate my whole self to my class- room, my students, and the school community I become a part of.

How do you hope to make a difference as an educator in Wisconsin? I don’t want to be just another cog in the system. We can always do more and be better for the students we serve, so I hope that wherever I go in Wisconsin I take with me the ideals that push myself and my colleagues to challenge ourselves and the status quo to build an education system that works for every student that comes through our doors. I want to inspire and be inspired every day, whether that be by students, peers, or parents.

Secondary Education — English

Where are you from, and what brought you to UW–Madison? I was born in Seattle, Washington, but have lived the majority of my life in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I was first attracted to this school as a freshman in high school after we visited a couple of times. And by this time, I had decided I wanted a career in teaching. So, when I was told that UW– Madison had really good teacher education programs by a couple of my favorite teachers who had graduated from here, UW–Madison became one of my first choices.

What inspired you to become a teacher? I decided that I would become a teacher around the same time that I became explicitly aware that racism festered all over this country and that anti-Blackness was alive and well in our classrooms, which, up until this realization during my freshman year, had always been posed as separate from the “outside world.” Then I began learning about the disparities in educational experiences between students of color and white students. And, as I continued to investigate this, I was left with a lot of questions and with a very strong urge to put myself where I recognized the work that I wanted to do would matter most — in the classroom.

How is the Teacher Pledge making it easier for you to pursue your goal of becoming a teacher? The Teacher Pledge has made it easier for me to commit myself to this training and work that I am really passionate about! I was so happy to hear that it was an option for us.

Spanish Education

Where are you from, and what brought you to UW–Madison? I am originally from Neenah, a town in northeast Wisconsin. I came to UW–Madison because it had been my top choice for as long as I can remember and it had everything I’d been looking for.

What inspired you to become a teacher? My teachers! I am very lucky to have attended a high school that had so many teachers who went above and beyond for their students, so I repeatedly saw first-hand the impact a committed teacher could have on students in and out of the classroom.

How is the Teacher Pledge making it easier for you to pursue your goal of becoming a teacher? It goes without saying that paying for school is no easy feat, so the Teacher Pledge has taken a huge weight off my shoulders! It has allowed me to focus so much more on what’s really important to me right now, which is growing into the best Spanish teacher I can possibly be.