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Lea (Babcock) Wallace ('10) Fights for Educational Equity through Teach for America
Categories: General, Alumni
Posted: 7/17/2017

Lea (Babcock) Wallace (’10) finds fulfilment in the day-to-day business of education as a recruitment associate for Teach for America in the Athens/Atlanta region.

Upon graduation from the University of Georgia in 2014, Lea made the decision to take on a teaching placement at Glencliff High School in Nashville through Teach for America. Not certain if it was the right decision, she reached out to former teachers at Whitefield. Coach Johnson, Mr. Hellier, and Ms. Bonnem all encouraged her to “go for it.” Their support was one of the underlying motivations that gave her confidence to head into the unknown.

Teach for America enlists the country’s most promising future leaders in the movement to eliminate educational inequity. Working alongside team members, Lea develops and executes strategies to build movements for educational equity on college campuses and in communities across the country, recruiting a diverse group of members across a portfolio of colleges and universities and professional sectors.

Glencliff, where Lea taught, is one of the most diverse high schools in Nashville, where their motto is “Our diversity is our strength.” Lea had 230 students, most of which were 12th-grade boys. In the student population at Glencliff, Lea experienced 142 nationalities and 26 different languages. Most of her students came to her with a third-grade reading level. She had her work cut out for her.

"While at Glencliff, I got to be a part of the team that brought Young Lives (for teen moms) to the community," said Lea. "I assisted in several of my students’ deliveries and mentored 40+ of my teen moms at Glencliff on how to care for their babies. I am SO PROUD of my students and their willingness to care for their children, finish high school, and go on to college."

When asked how she managed with such a diverse group, her answer was, “I truly couldn’t have survived teaching without the incredible love and support of my students and the community. They welcomed me in like family and made me one of their own. I was in no way a 'savior' to my kids or the South Nashville community. My students are the backbone of their families, and they are ushering in so much opportunity through their willingness to work hard in school, hold 40+ hour/week jobs, and take care of their own siblings and sometimes children. It was with their help, I succeeded.”

While in Nashville, Lea received her master’s degree from Lipscomb University in secondary education and instruction. She also met her husband, Jarryd Wallace, who is a Team USA paralympic sprinter.

Lea has made a difference in the lives of her students, helping to secure some 25 scholarships at David Lipscomb College and other local colleges. While she has been instrumental in helping them to maneuver the pathway to college, she also enjoys maintaining contact with her former students.

“I always appreciate the opportunity to talk about the students and the work that I love!”