Wendy Kopp - “There Is so Much Potential There”




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Sep 19, 2013
by Oscar Tollast
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Wendy Kopp - “There Is so Much Potential There”

Teach for All co-founder returns to Salzburg Global Seminar (Left to right) SGS Chief Program Officer Clare Shine with Wendy Kopp and Walter Emberger

Gorgeous: the word tweeted by Teach for All co-founder Wendy Kopp to describe the scene in front of her on a summer's evening in Salzburg. Standing on the Schloss Leopoldskron's balcony, she overlooked the terrace as a new group of educators prepared to celebrate. 

For the second year in a row, the Salzburg Global Seminar was hosting the closing ceremony of Teach for Austria’s Summer Institute. This year’s group of graduates, individually known as “Fellows”, gathered to be congratulated on the work that had been achieved over the summer, with Wendy being invited as a special guest.

With live music and speeches featuring as part of the entertainment, a jovial and positive atmosphere flourished. It reaffirmed the Seminar’s close partnership with Teach for Austria, and its commitment to the aim of providing better access to education for all children.

It wasn’t the first time that Wendy was enjoying the Schloss’ panoramic view. She had previously visited in 1997 to speak at a Seminar session entitled, ‘Educating Youth: Challenges for the Future”. Wendy was one of several guest speakers, as was Hillary Clinton, former US Secretary of State and First Lady of the United States.

During this session, Wendy spoke about how she founded Teach for America, a program that enlisted high-achieving recent college graduates and professionals to teach for at least two years in low-income communities throughout the United States. 

Only a decade later, Wendy founded Teach for All, a global network of independent non-profit organizations that applied the Teach for America model in other countries. Teach for Austria, a subsidiary of this organization, launched at the Schloss Leopoldskron in February 2012.

It’s a sign of how quickly an idea can grow. Fast forward to the present day and having earlier watched one of Teach for Austria’s leadership development sessions, Wendy says, “We’ve got to spread that, which they’ve really developed here, across the world, across the Teach for All network. I really do think there’s just enormous potential for sharing and acceleration."

Graduating “Fellows” from the program were selected through a meticulous multi-stage process, evaluating their personal and professional qualities. They’ll spend two years helping provide equal opportunities to socially disadvantaged youth in Salzburg and Vienna.

Wendy says, “I was so encouraged to meet today some Teach for Austria participants who themselves joined the program because they overcame all odds to attain a university degree. We’re recruiting the most highly sought after recent graduates who have the kind of commitment and leadership ability necessary to make a real difference for the toughest to reach kids.”

Teach for Austria and the Salzburg Global Seminar share a similar range of topics, ranging from education to social mobility and entrepreneurship. The Seminar has a history of educational initiatives and programs, including the ‘Optimizing Talent – Closing Educational Gaps Worldwide’ series. Wendy believes "there is so much potential" in the way the two organizations can work alongside each other.

“[The] mission of bringing people together across sectors and across countries to grapple with the most challenging societal issues is so central to our work. We believe that taking a global approach and really pulling people back from their day-to-day context for those sorts of discussions are just a key element of it. We would love to find ways to partner in that pursuit.”