Jaffe Peace Corps Fellow Helps School Targeted for Renewal

As a Peace Corps volunteer teaching math in a Liberian high school, Alex Abbondola learned to work without a playbook. Perhaps that’s why he has so appreciated his subsequent experience in Teachers College’s Elliot and Roslyn Jaffe Peace Corps Fellows Program, which enables returned volunteers to pursue a graduate degree while teaching in underserved public schools.

“The program is intense and very practical,” Abbondola says.  “The theories we talk about at TC today I can try in the classroom tomorrow.”

TC launched the first-of-its kind program in 1985 to meet the urgent need for qualified teachers in New York City’s most troubled schools. Today the model has spread to more than 90 universities across the country, serving as a pipeline into the classroom for more than 4,500 returned volunteers.

TC Trustee and philanthropist Elliot Jaffee and his wife Roslyn have generously supported TC’s Peace Corps Fellows for more than 25 years. In 2014 they renewed their commitment to the program with a generous new gift.

“New York City was willing to give idealistic young people teaching certificates, and TC had the courses, so we stepped up with some scholarships,” says Elliot Jaffe, a philanthropist and longtime TC Trustee.

At TC, Peace Corps Fellows complete an intensive 12-week training course before they begin teaching. Fellows make a minimum three-year commitment to teaching and receive generous scholarships to support their studies and living expenses.

“What’s impressive about the Peace Corps Fellows is they have the character, patience and thoughtfulness to do the hard work of urban education,” says Steve Lynch, the program’s assistant director.

Since September, the 29-year-old Abbondola has been teaching algebra and geometry at the High School for Health Careers and Sciences, which is among the low-performing schools targeted for turn-around or “renewal” by the New York City Department of Education. He’s also an assistant coach for the varsity basketball team and a tutor at the school’s Saturday sessions.

Still, he dreams of Liberia, where his Peace Corps stint was cut short when the 2014 Ebola outbreak forced the organization to evacuate all its volunteers. His goal: to give his students the experience of traveling abroad, perhaps through an exchange program in Liberia.

“Helping students of need is a lot of work,” he says. “But there’s a lot of reward, too.”

Mariko Thompson Beck

Published Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2016

Jaffe Peace Corps Fellow Helps School Targeted for Renewal

As a Peace Corps volunteer teaching math in a Liberian high school, Alex Abbondola learned to work without a playbook. Perhaps that’s why he has so appreciated his subsequent experience in Teachers College’s Elliot and Roslyn Jaffe Peace Corps Fellows Program, which enables returned volunteers to pursue a graduate degree while teaching in underserved public schools.

“The program is intense and very practical,” Abbondola says.  “The theories we talk about at TC today I can try in the classroom tomorrow.”

TC launched the first-of-its kind program in 1985 to meet the urgent need for qualified teachers in New York City’s most troubled schools. Today the model has spread to more than 90 universities across the country, serving as a pipeline into the classroom for more than 4,500 returned volunteers.

TC Trustee and philanthropist Elliot Jaffee and his wife Roslyn have generously supported TC’s Peace Corps Fellows for more than 25 years. In 2014 they renewed their commitment to the program with a generous new gift.

“New York City was willing to give idealistic young people teaching certificates, and TC had the courses, so we stepped up with some scholarships,” says Elliot Jaffe, a philanthropist and longtime TC Trustee.

At TC, Peace Corps Fellows complete an intensive 12-week training course before they begin teaching. Fellows make a minimum three-year commitment to teaching and receive generous scholarships to support their studies and living expenses.

“What’s impressive about the Peace Corps Fellows is they have the character, patience and thoughtfulness to do the hard work of urban education,” says Steve Lynch, the program’s assistant director.

Since September, the 29-year-old Abbondola has been teaching algebra and geometry at the High School for Health Careers and Sciences, which is among the low-performing schools targeted for turn-around or “renewal” by the New York City Department of Education. He’s also an assistant coach for the varsity basketball team and a tutor at the school’s Saturday sessions.

Still, he dreams of Liberia, where his Peace Corps stint was cut short when the 2014 Ebola outbreak forced the organization to evacuate all its volunteers. His goal: to give his students the experience of traveling abroad, perhaps through an exchange program in Liberia.

“Helping students of need is a lot of work,” he says. “But there’s a lot of reward, too.”

Mariko Thompson Beck

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