Growing up in Detroit, Nicole Baker Fulgham was fortunate to attend a magnet school where most graduates went on to college. The neighborhood school many of her friends attended had a 50 percent dropout rate, no AP classes, and very few grads who earned a college degree. One of her best friends had never heard of the sat until her senior year, when Nicole mentioned it. "I was devastated that the school system seemed to assume she wouldn't go to college," Fulgham says. "That moment stayed with me and continues to motivate me today."
After graduating from the University of Michigan with a B.A. in English, Fulgham joined Teach for America (TFA), an organization that helps children and youth in low-income communities receive a better education. She taught fifth grade in Compton, California, leading her students to the highest academic gains of any fifth-grade class in the district. She later earned a Ph.D. at UCLA, focusing on urban education policy and teacher preparation. She rejoined TFA, where she now serves as vice president of faith community relations, building awareness about educational inequity and ways that people of faith can support TFA's mission: "I want to see faith communities prioritize educational equality as one of their top social causes."
Question & Answer
Your favorite teacher growing up?
Mrs. Scharfenberg, my seventh-grade teacher. She expected more from us than any other teacher in my school. She wouldn't hear excuses or tolerate misbehavior. And everyone rose to the occasion. She also helped me believe I was a unique and special kid—which was impressive, since I was in the middle of my awkward phase.
What is Teach for America about?
Our mission is to help kids in low-income communities obtain the education ...