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Thirty ideas from people under 30: The Educators

The Monitor interviewed young artisans, politicians, educators, entrepreneurs and faith leaders. And they have trenchant suggestions on how to improve the world. We'll serve this smorgasbord in bite-size servings of 3 to 7 profiles per day. Today's lineup of educators includes a co-founder of a Chinese teaching nonprofit, a grad student helping Arkansas high schoolers, and a classroom innovator.

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Andrea Pasinetti, co-founder and co-executive officer of Teach for China.
Courtesy of Teach for China
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Andrea Pasinetti: Runs 'most influential nonprofit in China'

The idea of 150 teachers having an impact in a country of 1.4 billion people might seem a touch quixotic. But Andrea Pasinetti, a founder of Teach for China, figures he has to start somewhere.

The fledgling organization, which Mr. Pasinetti, 25, cofounded with former classmates Rachel Wasser and Hu Tingting in 2009, got its start with 20 teachers in Yunnan Province. The next year there were 60, and this year there are 150. The goal is 1,000 teachers by 2016. Already, the group is making a mark: It just won Newsweek China's annual award for the "most influential nonprofit in China."

It's a big honor for an embryonic organization that follows the philosophy of its founding group, Teach for America. Too many schools in rural areas can't attract good teachers, so students often get a second-rate education.

Teach for China recruits top students from China's best universities, as well as from American schools. The Chinese who sign up for a two-year teaching stint are often the first in their families to finish college, says Pasinetti, so he has had to convince parents that their children are not making a career mistake.

But he never needs to convince the young people themselves. In fact, says Pasinetti, "Everyone I've spoken to wants to contribute back to society." He adds, "You've really created a generation of leaders who have had this experience that's deeply imprinted in their DNA for the rest of their lives."

Even though Pasinetti was born in Los Angeles and grew up in New York, he's adopted China and hopes to make Teach for China "an enduring Chinese institution."

– Debra Bruno, Beijing

Next: Fernando Cutz: Delta blues buster

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