Our Network Support team works tirelessly to ensure that our teachers, instructional leaders and students can concentrate on what is most important—teaching and learning.
"The experience of working with a network of schools is like seeing the great relationships you develop as a classroom teacher multiplied."
Undergraduate Degree: Mississippi State University
Graduate Degree: Southern Connecticut State University
Stephanie began working within Network Support for the same reason she became a teacher: to develop instruction and relationships that help students achieve academic success. The mindset Stephanie used to guide her lessons as a teacher in southeast Atlanta, at Elm City College Prep Elementary and Amistad Academy Elementary drives her interactions with teachers and deans as she helps them tackle a challenging, Common Core-aligned math curriculum at a faster rate. Her deep involvement in developing day-to-day math instruction across Achievement First’s network of schools allows her to make a significant impact on teaching and learning on a broader scale. She manages interim assessments, works alongside teachers to develop resources that support the scope and sequence of lessons, manages goal setting, and leads professional development for deans and teachers. Stephanie helps all schools share resources and best practices, making lesson planning more efficient and giving all teachers and deans access to tools that can assist them in doing what they do best: providing our students with excellent instruction.
From an early age growing up in Kent, Wash., Stephanie recognized how much she valued her relationships with teachers and knew that she wanted to pursue a career in education. She loved math, and can trace her interest in network-wide math instruction back to her high school days. After earning her bachelor’s degree, Stephanie joined Teach For America and taught in Atlanta for two years. She moved to Connecticut and began working for Achievement First, starting as a first-grade teacher at Elm City College Prep Elementary and then becoming a founding kindergarten teacher at Amistad Academy Elementary (later serving as the school’s academic dean). In 2008, she accepted a position as the director of curriculum and instruction at a public charter elementary school in New Orleans. Two years later, she returned to Achievement First to lead K-4 math achievement, eventually becoming our senior director of math achievement.
Favorite aspect of working at Achievement First: “It is great to visit a classroom and see students giving highly developed answers while explaining their math strategy. To see students understand math on a deep level, to know that they won’t become adults who say, ‘I’m not a math person,’ is the reason behind everything we do.”
Proudest moment at Achievement First: “I am proud of our culmination of work during the past three years and how it has helped students gain a much better understanding of math. I know our students will be able to use math in ways they would not have been able to a few years ago.”
"I love that we're pushing students from a young age to know they will go to college."
Undergraduate Degree: Gettysburg College
Graduate Degree: Capella University
For as long as he can remember, Adrian has been fascinated with computers. As a child growing up in Barbados and then in the East Flatbush section of Brooklyn, he always looked for opportunities to play with and fix computers. This passion led him to further his studies in computer programming in college, and to take an IT job serving the medical industry before returning to graduate school. When he finished his advanced degree, he joined the IT team at Achievement First.
Adrian considers himself a lifelong learner, and he was drawn to Achievement First because of the opportunity to return to Brooklyn and work in education. He relishes the chance to not only work on computer programming, but also to interact with teachers and students at the five schools he serves. As an IT associate, Adrian addresses issues with Achievement First’s shared server, helps with login and hardware problems, and provides solutions to challenges related to email and Google applications. By providing support for Google Docs, he gets a firsthand look at Achievement First’s digital learning initiative while giving students the high-quality technology that he did not have access to as a traditional public school student in Brooklyn.
Adrian, who is a recent college graduate, feels grateful that he works at an organization that values his opinion, trusts him to tackle high-priority IT issues and empowers him to make choices. At Achievement First, he is able to use his IT skills to make a true impact on student achievement. Adrian’s work to help keep AF’s infrastructure running allows our students to receive a high-quality education, and his technological support enables our digital learning initiative to thrive.
Favorite Aspect of Working at Achievement First: “I love that we’re pushing students from a young age to know they will go to college. I have friends who didn’t make it through the education system with the same determination that I had, and I really believe that if everyone receives a great education, you can do so much with your life.”
Proudest Moment at Achievement First: “I was proud of my work during my first summer with Team IT. Summer is one of the team’s busiest times, and I was proud that I was given the opportunity to work independently and help upgrade wireless and wiring systems so that we could accommodate a larger capacity of computers than ever before. This work allowed us to provide so many more students with laptops and Internet access.”
"I work in education because I cannot stand by while injustice persists around me. I believe in the absolute potential in all children, and I know they deserve to fulfill their potential regardless of the circumstance they are born into."
Undergraduate Degree: Virginia Commonwealth University
Master’s Degree: American University
When Crystal Ward taught sixth-grade science and social studies at a turnaround school in Washington, D.C., she noticed the students who thrived in her classroom were asked to leave almost all of their other classes because of misbehavior. To Crystal, that seemed unproductive and unfair. As Achievement First’s director of school culture, Crystal coaches deans across the network in maintaining high expectations while creating environments where children love school because they feel affirmed, safe in taking academic and character risks, and secure in the knowledge that their “Team & Family” cares about them and their success in life and school.
In her role, Crystal works closely with regional superintendents to ensure each school has the foundational structure it needs to foster uninterrupted learning and deep intellectual engagement with academic content.
Crystal initially joined the Achievement First “Team & Family” as the founding dean of school culture at AF Endeavor Elementary. She accepted the role after a long career in working with children as a mentor, an Algebra readiness tutor and as a Teach For America corps member. Crystal, who feels strongly about the need to connect students with role models who share their experiences, also recruited teachers from historically black colleges and universities for Teach For America.
Crystal’s childhood experiences drew her to a career in education. Growing up in a military family, Crystal attended public schools in England, Alabama and New Mexico. She was accepted to a Connecticut prep school in 10th grade and—despite the fact that she had always been at the top of her class in public schools—found that she was initially underprepared for the rigorous reading and literacy curriculum. At Achievement First, she works on a “Team & Family” committed to making sure students are prepared for future success.
Favorite Aspect of Working at AF: “My favorite part of doing this work is that I get to see our most struggling students succeed. We know other schools might give up on kids, but here we invest even more in the children who need the most help.”
Proudest Moment at AF: “One of our AF Endeavor Elementary students, a young man who had been in my office quite a bit as we worked on various issues, had watched a video about REACH values during an assembly. When I was featured in the video, he started blowing kisses at the screen. It made me proud to know that even though this is a child with whom I had challenging conversations on a daily basis, at the heart of it he knows I love him.”
Undergraduate Degree: Yale University
When he was a recent college graduate and management consultant, Max struggled to enjoy his work because he didn’t feel like it made a difference in the world. When he considered all of the meaningful fields he could pursue, education stuck out as the quickest path to social justice and the best way to combat a slew of vexing societal problems. He thought about his grandparents who emigrated from Eastern Europe to East New York, and who were able to succeed in this country because their traditional public school system and community helped those with low income and low educational attainment. Max knew he wanted to work in the kind of public schools that made a positive impact on his family.
Max left his career at an international strategy consulting firm to teach at a high-performing, urban charter school in Massachusetts. A graduate of the Building Excellent Schools Fellowship and of the KIPP School Leadership Program, Max joined Uncommon Schools as the founding head of school at Leadership Prep Bedford Stuyvesant, a college-prep elementary school. He later supervised all Brooklyn elementary instructional leaders at the Prep and Excellence networks of Uncommon Schools as the director of Brooklyn elementary instruction.
As a regional superintendent at Achievement First, Max oversees a portfolio of elementary schools and supports their leadership teams in producing dramatic academic gains. He finds his role to be incredibly and intellectually stimulating because he enjoys being asked for help on important issues and spending his days in AF schools. Max spends a lot of time helping schools establish plans to overcome challenges, and helping deans and principals hone their abilities in observation, feedback and practice.
Favorite Aspect of Working at AF: “I love our really strong sense of ‘Team & Family.’ Achievement First is different from other places I’ve worked in that way. I feel like my colleagues really care about who I am as a person, and they want to know me.”
Proudest Moment at AF: “I’m very proud that I was involved in preparing Stephanie Blake to open AF Endeavor Elementary; we found the right leader and supported her in opening a great school. I am also proud of the tremendous academic progress we’ve made at AF Bushwick Elementary, gains that made AF Bushwick the highest-scoring K-8 school in New York City on the Department of Education 2011-12 Progress Reports.”
Achievement First schools are enhanced by the power of the network. To ensure the success of our schools, our Network Support team “takes the rocks off the road” for them by owning functions like finance, curriculum enhancement, talent development, operations, recruitment, human capital, technology, data practices, external relations and more. By centralizing and coordinating these and other functions, our Network Support team allows Achievement First to provide services more efficiently—capturing, systematizing and sharing best practices across the network—and at a lower cost than would be possible at a single school.