Teach For America corps members try to close education gap

Friday, December 12, 2008 | 4:55 p.m. CST; updated 3:01 p.m. CST, Monday, December 15, 2008

COLUMBIA — When Brenda Smith headed off to college, she was warned that women — particularly black women — don’t do well in math. Now the MU grad is the head of the math department in Northwest Law Academy, a north-St. Louis public high school, and pushes her students to love numbers the way she does.

When Kelly Schokmiller, another MU grad, first walked into her classroom in the south of St. Louis, she found her students had nothing to write with. In exchange for school supplies, Schokmiller volunteered once a month at a local nonprofit called KidSmart. Now her shelves are stocked, and her coworkers at Busch AAA can get supplies as well.

Both women are Teach For America corps members. And though neither has a teaching degree, both are running classrooms and trying to close the education gap in some of the poorest schools in St. Louis.

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