Teach for America opens professional doors for Whitman

Mike RettbergIn 2003, alumnus Mike Rettberg ’02 was a recent Whitman politics-environmental studies graduate starting a job as a seventh grade science teacher in the South Bronx, N.Y. Since then, his work has taken him all over the world, from Vietnam to South Africa to San Francisco, where he currently works as the assistant principal for KIPP San Francisco Bay Academy, a public charter school.

After his two years as a TFA corps member, Rettberg taught in a variety of contexts and locations. He worked five years as a seventh and eighth grade science teacher at KIPP San Francisco Bay Academy. He also worked abroad. In 2005, he taught wilderness medicine in Vietnam, and in 2008 he volunteered a summer with San Francisco non-profit Teach With Africa in Cape Town, South Africa, where he worked with LEAP Schools, a low-fee private school organization. From 2011-2012, he returned to South Africa with EdVillage and worked with LEAP employees to improve the educational outcomes for LEAP students and teachers alike.

Since his time as a TFA corps member, Rettberg has also been involved with TFA in several ways. In 2006, he worked as a corps member advisor at the New York City TFA Institute, where he trained new TFA corps members for their positions. He has also given presentations at various TFA conferences and has worked with other TFA corps members throughout his career in education.

As a TFA corps member Rettberg faced his share of challenges, such as communication difficulties and the struggle of finding a work-life balance, but he believes that the relationships he developed with other TFA corps members and the experiences he had teaching in New York gave him the tools he needed to succeed as an educator.

“I learned from [the other corps members] how to be a more thoughtful and reflective person, what it means to show leadership and grit against overwhelming odds and obstacles, how to find common ground and goals with people of very different backgrounds and how to be a highly-effective professional focused on continuous improvement and results,” he said. 

Of course, being surrounded by a community interested in learning and self-improvement is not new for Rettberg. His liberal arts education at Whitman introduced him to many of the skills he would need to be an excellent educator.

“My professors and classmates at Whitman taught me that if you are open to learning, the opportunities to learn are endless, all around us, and often where you would least expect them.”