What are you leading?
I am the principal of a traditional, urban high school with over 1000 students. North High School was placed in turnaround status as it was about to close, but in the last 6 years has become a school that now meets expectations on the state and district performance frameworks. We are intentionally creating an environment focused on developing the whole child where we embrace Personal Success Factors, Restorative Practices, and Strategic Academic Supports. We want all of our students to be actively engaged and know that college is an option for them.
How did your experiences as a fellow inspire or prepare you for what you’re doing now?
Being a corps member with Teach For America shaped the urgency that I have for working with communities that oftentimes have been underserved. My life mission statement is the education and empower marginalized youth to make a positive difference in the world. This came from the experiences I had with students, families, and the community during my corps experience where I realized the incredible assets that everyone has.
In my first year of teaching, I was just figuring things out and I still feel guilty that I was not able to provide more to my students as their achievement scores were just average. My second year though, and every year after that, my student achievement was comparable to surrounding affluent towns to San Jose, California like Palo Alto and Menlo Park. This experience taught me that achievement was possible for all students if students were given the intentional instruction and care that they deserved.
The most impactful experience that I had in the corps was conducting home visits and spending authentic time with students and families. This allowed me to see the environments my students were going home to, how I could connect with families, and how I could provide real life opportunities to students. Jonathan was one of my students who struggled to read. After learning he had never been to the mountains, I took a group of students on a hike. Jonathan learned quickly that the signs on the trails told us which direction to go and after this experience, his ready sky rocketed because he saw meaning and purpose in having this skill.
I taught for 5 years and stayed deeply connected with Teach For America because of the powerful network of people who are collectively working to impact education. I found this group to be oriented towards social justice which I believe is at the core of our work. I have been given amazing opportunities as a part of this network.
I want to be a leader who empowers others to build relationships across lines of difference and eliminates the hate that exists in this world. There are too many systems that we don’t question, too many people we don’t take the time to connect with, and too many assumptions that are made. The demographics are changing at my school and it is a great opportunity to connect people who have different life experiences to shape their lives. I want to lead a school that is a positive outlier with achievement results, community investment, and whole child development for all of our students so that we can lead the way as a model for others in a traditional school setting to replicate.