November 08, 2012 16:51 Age: 5 yrs

AF Bushwick Elementary Teacher Participates in National Fellowship

Category: News, Home
By: Grant Newman

Grant Newman, a third-grade teacher at Achievement First Bushwick Elementary seen here with one of his former students, is one of 100 outstanding educators nationwide selected for an America Achieves Fellowship for Teachers and Principals. Grant shares his fellowship experiences in this post.

1. How and why did you become involved in the fellowship?

I hope to further develop the skills necessary to advocate for policies and reforms that will help transform education nationally. The fellowship allows me to work with some of the country’s most effective educators to share ideas, advise policy makers and draw from my success within the classroom to act as a policy advocate.

I was selected after outlining my results in the classroom, work to invest families, and ability to overcome challenges and use data to inform my instruction. I also shared how I was able to create a culture of “re-do” that made a huge impact in the achievement of my students.

2. As a fellow, you met with policy makers and education leaders at NBC’s Education Nation. What was one highlight of that experience?

I had the opportunity to discuss teacher evaluations during the “Teacher Town Hall” moderated by NBC’s Brian Williams. I spoke about my passion for Achievement First’s Teacher Career Pathway, which has been an incredible coaching tool for my development and method to recognize the success of my practice. I’m interested in how this small moment could grow into a larger role shaping education policy.

3. How did the event inform the way you view your experience as an AF teacher?

When we met to ask questions of U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, I found that my peers had concerns very different from mine. Some teachers noted the lack of coaching and professional development in their districts. Other teachers shared the difficulties of teaching more than 40 students in classes with no air conditioning during the month of June. I left the session truly grateful for my role as a teacher at Achievement First. With so much of the logistical, organizational and developmental systems in place, I spend my days with an almost single-minded focus on getting kids to learn as much as possible.

4. What did you learn from the other educators in the group?

I realized that education policy and practice, particularly since decisions are rooted at the state and local level, are incredibly varied. For instance, a certain curricular approach that works with students in urban Chicago might be missing the mark with rural students in North Carolina. School structures for English Language Learners in Texas might not help struggling readers in Maine.

5. How will this experience help you become a better educator?

I walked away from the conference knowing that while there are certain undeniable principles in which we must ground our education policy—for example, the notion that all students can, want to and will learn or that teachers are the most important drivers of student achievement—we must recognize there is no silver bullet. Rather than search for one “100 percent solution,” we must look for 100 “1 percent solutions,” or maybe 1,000 “.1 percent solutions.”

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