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Michael Copperman And "Teacher: Two Years In The Mississippi Delta" On Monday's Access Utah

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When Michael Copperman left Stanford University for the Mississippi Delta in 2002 - recruited by Teach for America - he imagined he would lift underprivileged children from the narrow horizons of rural poverty. Well-meaning but naïve, the Asian-American from the West Coast says he soon lost his bearings in a world divided between black and white. Trying to help students, he often found he couldn’t afford to give what they required―sometimes with heartbreaking consequences.

In his memoir, “Teacher: Two Years in the Mississippi Delta” (University Press of Mississippi), Copperman considers the distance between the idealism of Teach for America’s creed that “One day, all children in this nation will have the opportunity to attain an excellent education and reach their full potential” and what it actually means to teach in America’s poorest and most troubled public schools.

Copperman describes his disorientation in the divided world of the Delta, even as he marvels at the wit and resilience of the children in his classroom. To them, he is at once an authority figure and a stranger minority than even they are―a lone Asian, an outsider among outsiders.

From 2002 to 2004, Michael Copperman, Eugene, Oregon, taught fourth grade in the rural black public schools of the Mississippi Delta with Teach For America. Now, he teaches writing to low-income, first-generation college students of diverse backgrounds at the University of Oregon. His work has appeared in the Sun, the Oxford American, Guernica, Creative Nonfiction, and Copper Nickel and has garnered fellowships and awards from the Munster Literature Centre, the Oregon Arts Commission, Literary Arts, and Bread Loaf Writers' Conference.