October 29, 1997 1 min read

Leaders from government, business, entertainment, and the media took to classrooms across the country last week to kick off the first Teach For America Week.

Teach For America, the national teacher corps based in New York City, organized the event. The idea was to help provide positive role models for students in the high-need districts tfa serves.

More than 150 participants spent an hour or so sharing their knowledge with students in over 100 schools in 11 areas where the group places young college graduates as teachers.

“It was a truly inspiring experience,” syndicated columnist Arianna Huffington said following her teaching session with students at Davis Middle School in Los Angeles. “The children were wonderful. ... Their questions had depth, clarity, and really challenged me to speak from my heart and not just give pat answers.”

Ms. Huffington was not the only one inspired. Former Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger decided that one hour with students at I.S. 161 in Washington Heights in New York City was not enough, so he stayed to teach an extra class.

The classroom was familiar ground for movie executive Sherry Lansing, who taught more than 20 students at Washington Middle School in Pasadena, Calif. Ms. Lansing taught for five years in East Los Angeles and Compton, Calif., long before she became the chairman and CEO of Paramount Pictures.

Attorney General Janet Reno also dropped in on students at the Harriet Tubman School in Washington to talk about the three branches of government.

Some of the other participants last week included former New York City Mayor David Dinkins, Olympic gold-medal speedskater Dan Jansen, and Secretary of Health and Human Services Donna E. Shalala.

Since 1989, more than 20,000 individuals have applied to the Teach For America program, and it has placed 3,700 as teachers. The corps, which places its members in urban and rural public schools, has reached over 100,000 students.