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Wendy Kopp, CEO of Teach for America, Describes the Origins of Teach for All

Teach for All Co-founders Wendy Kopp and Brett Wigdortz describe the origins of Teach for All and its vision.

Interviews shot in Washington, D.C. and New York, NY, June & July, 2011​

“Teach For America was the brainchild of Wendy Kopp. In her senior thesis at Princeton in 1989, Kopp outlined a plan to attack educational inequality in the United States by recruiting top college graduates to teach for two years in underperforming schools. While the initiative had a low retention rate among teachers, Kopp argued that program alumni would become engaged advocates for educational improvement.

Kopp’s plan succeeded beyond her expectations. Within a decade, the Teach For America corps had become one of the most sought-after employers for bright college graduates from the nation’s top universities. In just two decades of operation, Teach For America had placed more 30,000 teachers in underperforming schools around the country, and had built an alumni group that influenced the nation’s educational policy. The concept also proved to work outside the United States. In 2002, Brett Wigdortz, a former McKinsey consultant, founded Teach First in the United Kingdom. Teach First had strong support from British government, and by 2011, the organization had placed more than 2,500 teachers in schools across England.

Kopp and Wigdortz believed a global group could be founded to help others interested in the model. With the success of their respective organizations, the duo became magnets for social entrepreneurs from around the globe who wanted to import the model to their own countries. They also imagined that a global organization which enabled everyone to learn from each other could be of value to each participant. 

After securing funding to build a global network, Kopp and Wigdortz announced the formation of Teach For All at the Clinton Global Summit in 2007.”