View from the end of a table of people talking excitedly
2017 Mississippi Corps Members

Delta Institute: Innovation and Collaboration for a New Generation of Corps Members

For seven years, Cleveland, Mississippi, has played host to the summer training - or Institute - of hundreds of corps members from across a number of Teach For America’s regions. And with that legacy behind it, last year Delta Institute became the first of its kind: a multi-regional Institute purposefully designed to serve Teach For America’s rural areas. Here we learn more about Delta Institutes “firsts” from Senior Managing Director of Delta Institute, Rachel Brainerd.
Thursday, November 9, 2017

Since 2010, incoming corps members placed in Teach For America’s regions across the southeast have had their first opportunity to work with students right here - in the Mississippi Delta - during their formative five-week summer training. This program, or Institute, was one of many such Teach For America Institutes held throughout the country, and offered a variety of experiences for new corps members, such as leading a summer school classroom most mornings and a series of coaching and professional development sessions in the afternoons at Delta State University.

After 2016’s Institute season, five of Teach For America’s regions came together in light of an opportunity to re-open Delta Institute with the long-term goal of reimagining what it means to prepare teacher to teach in rural or small-urban communities in the south, and under that vision Appalachia, Arkansas, Louisiana Delta, Mississippi, and Southern Louisiana spearheaded the first multi-regional Institute in 2017. Under the effort and guidance of Mississippi’s executive leadership, Delta Institute endeavored to open its doors to incoming corps members at Delta State University and surrounding k-12 classrooms all over again - and for the first time.

This “reimagined” Delta Institute is unique in a few ways. The historical legacy, cultural strength, and student potential in southern rural and small urban communities in which we work require teachers to build genuine relationships and navigate complex systems. The Delta Institute strives to support corps members in doing that from day one. The consortium model - five regions working closely together to design and execute an institute - is a new direction within Teach For America and requires partner regions to work closely together with a central Institute Management Team to set priorities and make key decisions. This collective approach to designing and executing an institute mirrors the work that we aspire to do across all areas:  building a network of people who are all striving for a common goal. This work is made possible (and powerful) by the partnership we share with districts across the Delta as well as Delta State University, partners who continue to teach us what leadership and collaboration can do in a rural place.

Two group photos
2017 Mississippi Corps Members Before and After Induction

This summer, our inaugural, rurally-focused Delta Institute brought 172 corps members to Cleveland, Mississippi, where they worked in five different schools teaching kindergarten through high school classrooms. We are honored by the passion and commitment to rural regions we’ve seen as a result of our efforts, and are excited to continue our work in 2018 and beyond. Because we are committed to growing and bettering this Institute, we will be implementing new strategies that will continue help incoming corps members hone their leadership in the classroom and in rural landscapes more broadly. And until we open our doors for the second regional Delta Institute, we will be working tirelessly to make sure it is an experience that best serves our students, our corps members, our partners, and our rural communities.

We’ll see you at Delta State University in June.

 
"I Got Jumped" by Samesa Hoskin and Elle Brown at the 2017 Institute Send-Off Ceremony