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Wendy Kopp

Education Advocate

New York, NY

The risks of starting the organization were very clear to me six years ago, but I could not have anticipated all of the rewards.

Six years ago I was grappling with a big dilemma. For several years I had been meeting inspiring social entrepreneurs from all over the world who had come across Teach For America, the organization I’d founded when I was 22. They were seeking help in launching a similar effort in their own countries, and I wanted to start a global organization to respond to their requests. I envisioned “Teach For All,” which would be a network of independent organizations sharing the same mission. By collaborating, these organizations would learn from one another and accelerate each other’s progress.

I was confident that there would be many supporters and allies who would be excited to take on this challenge with me. It had understandably been a struggle to start Teach For America when I was 22, but I assumed it would be different this time around.

I was surprised when I got at least as much pushback starting Teach For All as I did starting Teach For America. Many of the people I expected to be its strongest proponents expressed the greatest reservations.

Many of their questions were understandable. Was it wise to divert focus when the problems in the U.S. are still so massive? Was I too inexperienced in international affairs to lead this organization? Many people questioned whether, as a wife and mother of four, it was advisable for me to do the world travel that would be required. I began doubting myself.

Encouragement arrived from an unexpected source. I had never met Fazle Abed, the esteemed founder of the global anti-poverty organization BRAC, but as I was deliberating, he spent three hours talking to me over dinner. Fazle is a father himself and among other things I asked him whether he thought I could make an international endeavor work, given my young kids. He didn’t hesitate. “Of course!” he said, with his characteristic positive energy. “You can do this and have a strong family.”

Fazle was right. With the encouragement of my family, I decided to launch Teach For All and lead its development.

In the six years since its inception, Teach For All has expanded to 26 countries and counting. The risks of starting the organization were very clear to me six years ago, but I could not have anticipated all of the rewards. It has been remarkable to see the brightest, most committed college graduates in countries around the world drawn to the issue of educational inequality – and to see them, inspired by their different cultures and contexts, pioneer new solutions. Ultimately, I have no doubt that there will be thriving movements to ensure educational opportunity for all in countries all over the world that are advancing more quickly because they are informing each other’s development. The travel has its negatives, but leading Teach For All has enabled me to expose my kids to the world – to its greatest problems and to the inspiring truth that we can make a difference against them.