What has been your journey to your current position as History Teacher at Friendship Woodridge International?
This is my 17th year of teaching. My journey started during my last semester in college. I was a Political Science major, and had no plans to become a teacher. I took a course called Advocacy for Urban Schools. For my first paper, we had to write about a book called “Dreamkeepers” by Gloria Ladson-Billings, and I earned an A+++. That’s right, three pluses! When the professor returned our papers, he also passed around a clipboard for us to sign up for student teaching. I said, “No, no, no – I can’t do this. I’m not an education major.” He said, “Well, either you do it or you drop the class.” I taught AP U.S. History in Atlanta, Georgia, at Southside High School – and loved it.
Before that, I also had great personal experiences with my own education growing up in D.C. and attending excellent independent schools, which were all very different. I went to the Roots Activity Learning Center, an African-centered school, then to a Catholic school called Our Lady of Lourdes. Lastly, I attended Edmund Burke, a progressive school.
What did you love about teaching?
I noticed early in my career that students who typically struggle in school did well in my class. I asked myself, “What is it, then?” I started teaching in Brooklyn, New York, and I had six classes. No matter what level they were at, they all succeeded. What made me fall in love with teaching was discovering that I had a prescription for academic success.
What was your journey to becoming an art teacher at Friendship Armstrong?
I have always loved art and teaching. I went to the Corcoran School of Art and Design as a photography major. I then switched to fine arts with a focus on sculpture.
As an art teacher, my job is to encourage my students to find and recognize their own voice while creating art and, of course, having fun. Students identify their preferences – whether it’s color, line, movement – within their work. I help them see their patterns of choice and recognize their own voice. It is critical to encourage students to express themselves both inside and outside the classroom. With that in mind, they then begin to have conversations among themselves about the art. They can say, “I like pink, but I just don’t like red,” or “I learned that blue can mean this…” As they get older they learn about what artists are trying to convey and why they chose the colors they did.
My role is that of the facilitator of self discovery. I give them the material, offer a demonstration, and then I let them go to figure out their own process. Some of them may not like the work that they produce. Some of them want to rip it up or throw it away and if I can, I gently push them to keep working. I ask them to let the artist’s voice in them work through these difficulties because you have to work through difficulties outside of art class, too.
The best part is the “aha” moment, when they finally push through what they thought was an insurmountable obstacle. Oftentimes they ask me if they can start over and instead I ask them to go back and make their current piece work.
What was your journey to your current position?
If you ask my mother that question, she would say that I was always a teacher. She thought I was nurturing and showed leadership at a young age. I was always teaching my younger brothers this or that.
I started as a classroom teacher in Florida where I taught high school. Then I moved to DC and continued to teach, eventually becoming a department chair. After which I became an instructional specialist at Blow Pierce. I eventually moved on to Woodridge as an instructional specialist, and then an IB coordinator. Soon I became an assistant principal, and now I’m a principal at Southeast Academy.
I love to push students academically, socially, and emotionally so that they strive to be the best they can be.
Are there any strategies you would recommend for other leaders or teachers?
I find the adaptive leadership approach to be quite effective. Being adaptive means you are ensuring that there is a level of trust within your team. They come to understand that you have the best intentions for our scholars. When there is trust, everyone is willing to work towards the shared vision of achieving the goals that we set for our students. Trust is extremely important.
I often have one-on-one conversations with teachers, not only to convey my expectations but to understand what is working well for them and what can be improved. When you make an effort, you build a level of trust on both sides. My office is a safe space where team members can come knock on my door at any time.
Making Thinking Visible is one of my favorite books. Students own the learning that is taking place. They are active participants and the teacher is the facilitator. This fosters a deeper learning and understanding of the content. This book provides teachers with the specific strategies that they can use in the classroom. We used it for a book study when I was the IB Coordinator at Friendship Woodridge International, and it transformed the level of student thinking and ownership at that school.
What is your current role?
I am currently a 7th and 8th grade Master Science teacher, and I’m in a role that I am truly passionate about. My vision is to provide my students with a strong foundation in science by inspiring them as well as educating them in the variety of careers in the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) fields, which are projected to be some of the fastest growing career fields today.
Many of my former students are now applying for STEM internships, and have declared biology and chemistry majors in college. I love receiving visits and emails from my previous scholars and to know that science remains important to them.
Every year I am so impressed with Friendship Woodridge International Middle School scholars who qualify for (and win) district-level STEM fairs!
What do you like about Friendship?
I love that Friendship is so invested in the community. At Friendship, we serve ALL students. I love coming to work every day to fulfill our mission. Each and every educator does so much to ensure there is no limit to what students can achieve. I love that Friendship Collegiate offers so many scholarships, opportunities, and partnerships for our students so that when they become seniors, they’re ready to be successful.
At Friendship Woodridge International, we are an International Baccalaureate school. This pushes us to make our lessons more rigorous and to incorporate the IB profiles for students such as being balanced, caring, and principled. In addition to performing academically, students are also taught to be well-rounded citizens who will come back and contribute to their community.
What was your journey like to your current position as Manager of Alumni Relations?
I moved to DC from New York in the summer of 2008. I knew right away that I wanted to work in education because I love working with kids. An agency in D.C. connected me with the College Success Foundation, where I worked for nine years. I advised students in multiple schools through the Achievers Scholarship Program, and one of those schools turned out to be Friendship Collegiate. This January, Maya Foster, our previous Alumni Manager, reached out to ask if I would be interested in the position since she was starting her private counseling practice. My passion is in helping students make college a reality, and this was the natural next step for me.
How do you support students who are in college?
It is important to foster a relationship where students know they can reach out if they need anything. If they feel overwhelmed, they might shut down and push college responsibilities out of the way. We want them to reach out to us before this happens. We check in with students regularly so that we can build relationships and let them know that they can come to us at any time. We connect them with the resources and tutoring services on campus, and we encourage them to use these resources. I always tell my students, “Go to class every single day and make a connection with your professors. This way you will get the support you need.”
What makes students successful in college?
The most important thing is that students should be academically prepared. Students are also more successful when they have a guide or mentor that can help them navigate college life. Students really appreciate hearing from former Friendship teachers who check in on them periodically while they’re in school or even after they graduate. It helps them to know that there are people out there rooting for them.
What has been your journey to your current position as Senior Director of Student Services?
I have been working to support special population children for over 20 years! When I say “special population,” I mean kids with disabilities or ones who do not always arrive ready to learn. They might not be ready behaviorally, academically, or environmentally. Our goal is to make sure that ALL students succeed, and each student should have a differentiated path to success. My team ensures that all students have the support they need in order to perform at their optimum level. We offer services outlined under the federal Individuals with Disabilities Act. However, sometimes students do not have a disability, but they have an impairment, and there are laws that protect these students as well. Examples of impairments are medical conditions like sickle cell anemia, which can cause a student to miss several days of school. For this reason, accommodations are put in place for these students by my team.
Also, the McKinney Vento program is a federal program for children and youth in transition. Sometimes we think of homeless students as kids that are living in the street or in a shelter, but the definition of “homeless” is any child or family that is displaced. If I lost my job today and was unable to pay for my housing and had to live with a relative in their basement, I would be “in transition.”
So, there are laws that protect children to ensure they have equal access and are prepared to learn. McKinney Vento provides funding to ensure all children have book bags, school supplies, uniforms, hats, gloves, coats, transportation, and fare cards to make sure they can safely get to and from school.
What was your journey to your current position?
I am an engineer by trade, and my dad was both an educator and a mathematician. I worked as a project engineer for about six years and found that I had a genuine calling to teach. I wanted to help increase the number of minorities in engineering, and to give a better foundation to students interested in STEM because I didn’t have that foundation growing up. I started out at Prince George’s County as an engineering design development and information technology teacher.
At Friendship Technology Preparatory I started off by teaching the 6th grade Gateway to Technology course, and I eventually became the Smart Lab co-facilitator. I had 9th grade students who explored different technologies in the lab. They built many things such as hydro-electric cars, electric circuits, and even windmills. I also taught a social entrepreneurship class and was a coach for the robotics club, where we built solar cars and completed various robotics challenges. As a coordinator for the environmental science-themed academy, I worked with the BEST workforce and the Naval Academy to bring the Seaperch program to Tech Prep, my students built underwater drones for ocean exploration. Two of those students who graduated in 2017 went on to be marine biologists.
I also worked on a team to design the Technology Applied Science for Sustainable Communities Academy in order to expose students to environmental science and renewable energy projects to maximize the use of our greenhouses and farms. That coupled with computer science and robotics shows our scholars how different sciences can blend together to develop sustainable communities. We adopted the EcoRise curriculum, and collaborated with the Coastguard to have engineers and scientists work with our students to complete real world projects. Students can also become LEED certified to build sustainable buildings and reduce their carbon footprint.
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What has been your journey to your present position?This is my 7th year at Friendship. In college, I was accepted into an African-American all-male teacher program, Maynard Scholar at Elizabeth City State University. My instructors and mentors in college did a great job to prepare me to be a highly effective teacher. I have taught multiple grade levels, and last year I was an Instructional Specialist. Previously, I thought I preferred to teach middle school, but now I enjoy teaching freshman in high school. I see how important it was for students to have a great first year in Algebra and to make real world connections in order to be successful.
I have also gained content knowledge from having coached Pre-K through 8th grade teachers at Friendship Blow Pierce. I saw the connections students were making from grade to grade. This helps me to be a more effective Algebra teacher because I am able to draw from what they previously learned.
What are some strategies you use for keeping students on task?
Relationship building is the key to making sure students are engaged daily. At the beginning of the school year, I do a lot of team-building activities for students to develop trust in their classmates, myself, and most importantly, themselves. I take the time to go to the lunch room and eat lunch with my students to get to know them better in a different setting.
I plan my lessons like a football coach might plan his game, in the sense that I walk around with note cards and when I plan, I keep my students’ unique needs in mind. I have differentiated questions prepared depending upon their learning style – whether they are kinesthetic learners, visual learners, etc. I probably spend six to eight hours during the weekends to ensure that plans are maximally effective for the upcoming week. I prepare differentiated Do Now’s and Exit Tickets for each class. This is important because we have a sixty-minute Algebra period, and we must maximize every single minute.
What was your journey to your current position?
This is my 16th year in education. I was a Middle School English Language Arts teacher, and I realized that many of my students were struggling readers. I wanted to share great literature with them like Shakespeare, Byron, and Shelley, but they couldn’t read any of it. I didn’t know how to help them because at the time, I had only taken coursework in literature and composition, not reading.
I started taking coursework in reading as I was finishing my master’s in Library Information Science. While I was a librarian at a community college, I also taught remedial reading courses to adults and fell in love with teaching struggling readers. I became fascinated by the process of language acquisition.
When I went back to K-12 education, I became an inclusion teacher and reading interventionist and worked with learners with specific learning disabilities in the area of reading. This led to my doctoral research in metalinguistics, a sub-field of reading.
After working for Scholastic and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt as a literacy consultant, I was offered the opportunity to become a reading specialist and literacy coach here at Friendship. This is my third year with FPCS and I currently serve as Reading Specialist at Friendship Chamberlain and Reading Interventions (Read 180) Coordinator Friendship-wide.
What do you like about Social Studies?
Social Studies has always been my favorite subject, even in elementary school. During vacations, I would always ask my parents if we could go to a historical site, like a battlefield or a museum. I have always been fascinated by how we got to where we are now. There are so many stories that too few of us know about.
What has been your journey to your current position?
I started teaching in Fairfax County in Vienna, Virginia because the graduate program I was involved with at George Washington University had a partnership with that county. I taught there for 3 years full-time and really enjoyed it, but my passion was to serve the communities in the surrounding areas that have traditionally been underserved. I taught at Friendship Collegiate for a couple of years and became the department chair of Social Studies there. Then I became an instructional specialist. After that, I went to Technology Preparatory, where I was the assistant principal for 2 years. This is my second year as the director of Social Studies at Friendship.
What has been your journey to your current position as Master Teacher at Friendship Chamberlain?
I did not start out in education. I started in the media working for various TV shows, but I felt like I wasn’t fulfilling my purpose. So I quit the TV station and went to school. I got a master’s degree in public policy, and I worked for a brief time on Capitol Hill.
That also wasn’t the right fit for me though. My sister asked me to substitute teach at her school. My sister is a science teacher, and my mother had been a teacher for years. She then became a principal and the founder of a Christian academy. My parents told me, “You were fighting it. You should have been [teaching] this whole time.” Eventually the subbing led to a full-time teaching position, and here I am still teaching 12 years later.
What was it that made you realize that you should teach?
I like to see the joy on my students faces when they get excited about reading, understanding the content, and interpreting it in different ways. I love giving the gift of reading. At the beginning of the school year, I gave each scholar a book with a bow on it. I call books “babies,” and I tell my students to treat them with so much love and care and to be gentle with them. They kind of get a kick out of that.
What advice would you give other teachers?
This summer I had the opportunity to offer professional development to new-to-Friendship teachers. The most important thing you can do as a teacher is to build relationships with your students; then, students will want to work hard. They will want to make you proud.
Learn about students’ interests and encourage them to read about them. At the beginning of the school year, I facilitate getting-to-know-each-other activities and take inventory of their interests as we go. If a student is into ballet or cars, I will bring in magazines they can read in order to foster a relationship, and they’re like, “Oh! Ms. Adams, how did you know I like ballet?” I’ll reply, “You told me!”
Can you talk about your journey to becoming Resident Principal at Technology Preparatory High?
When I was in college I thought I would become a doctor, so I majored in biology and planned to go to medical school. After more research, I found that I loved education and really wanted to teach.
My first teaching position was in Prince George’s County. I learned about Friendship Public Charter School and interviewed at Friendship Blow Pierce, where I taught for three years. I was the Department Chair for Science and was named the 2010 Blow Pierce Teacher of the Year. I went on to become an Instructional Coach at Friendship Collegiate Academy. After that, I became Academy Director and helped design the Health Sciences Academy as part of our National Academy Foundation grant. At Friendship Collegiate Academy students are able to learn about many different fields. There are academies for engineering, IT and health sciences. Now I am the Resident Principal at Technology Preparatory High. I am currently pursuing a doctorate degree in Educational Leadership from Bowie State University.
What advice would you give a fellow leader or teacher?
Whether you’re a principal or a teacher, it’s very important to find out why you want to be a teacher or leader. As a leader, it’s important to have a clear understanding of the vision and to communicate this to staff, offer support and hold people accountable. Teachers must do the same for their students. You must be driven by this vision every day and every decision you make should be informed by data, too. At the end of the day, you have to be passionate about what you do.
What do you like most about teaching?
I have always enjoyed being around children. They are honest, genuine and kind. I grew up in suburban New Jersey, and being at Blow Pierce, in Northeast D.C., has been a new experience. I am deeply passionate about giving my second grade scholars the same opportunities I have had.
Last year, one of my students was reading below grade level. I knew it had a lot to do with her confidence. She didn’t believe in herself. I developed a relationship with the student and highlighted her successes in front of her peers. I worked with her after school every day, and she showed tremendous growth. She loves reading now and raises her hand during class. The positive reinforcement really went a long way.
What do you like about Friendship Blow Pierce?
It’s a privilege for me to teach the youth in this community and to see the amazing things that they are capable of achieving. We have many magnificent teachers. I think it’s a special place, and I cherish the relationships that I have developed with the teachers, families and students in this neighborhood. I get a lot of great information from Ms. Gibson – she has a wealth of knowledge and excellent resources. Mr. Milton is awesome with classroom management and differentiating instruction. Ms. Tackie is an expert in pedagogy. I consider these three teachers to be my mentors. Additionally, I’d like to thank Mr. Spears for always pushing me to achieve my full potential and for always believing in me.
What has your journey been like to your current position as Principal at Friendship Collegiate?
I started out as a history teacher at Frederick Douglass in Harlem. After that, I was accepted into New Leaders for New Schools. My first job as an administrator was assistant principal in the South Bronx at Eagle Academy. I was tasked with changing the culture at the lower school. There were a lot of moving pieces, and that’s where I developed as an administrator. IDEA Public Charter School in Texas then gave me the opportunity to launch a new school. It was at a 98% poverty rate and I brought it to one of the top 25% academically performing schools in the state. It was a great experience, but I longed for the northeast, so I decided to come to Friendship Public Charter School.
What strategies have led to the most success?
Systems, school culture and teacher accountability. Frederick Douglass in Harlem was a school with a 90% plus poverty rate and 100% of our kids went to college every year. We created a culture where no matter what, we were going to get these kids to and through college. We had to think outside of the box. By the time our kids left eighth grade, whether by staying with us for high school or going elsewhere, they had taken upper level classes and four high school exams. Our middle school students are often able to complete more rigorous work and this is what set them up for success in high school, college, and throughout life.
At 6pm, when I was leaving the school building, there were often 800 out of 1400 kids participating in extracurricular activities. Even if their parents were working multiple jobs and not at home, students were in school and building character, self-esteem and learning how to interact with others. This is what I experienced at Frederick Douglass and sought to recreate in San Antonio.
Describe the journey to your current role as Director of Early Childhood Education.
I started teaching with Teach for America right out of college, and was a language arts teacher in Hawaii for two years. I moved to Washington D.C. and taught at KIPP DC for one year. In 2011, I was accepted into the New Leaders program and became assistant principal at Friendship Woodridge. The next year I became a principal at Apple Tree, an early learning public charter school. During my fourth year, I received the Washington Post’s Principal of the Year Award. Shortly after, I rejoined Friendship to oversee the Early Childhood Education department.
What strategies would you recommend for a new Pre-K teacher?
The most important strategy is to keep kids engaged with your enthusiasm. If you act like the topic is the most exciting thing in the world, they will often match your energy. Move quickly from activity to activity. This will also keep them engaged. Lastly, use different modalities and keep your instruction very visual.
Do you have a favorite year of teaching?
My second year of teaching was my most meaningful. I was teaching middle school language arts. During that year, I was assigned the lowest performing students in the school. My supervisor told me, “Put them on the right track. I think you can do it.” It was daunting and difficult at first. The students did not initially have confidence in themselves, especially because the students in the class next door were considered the “advanced” and “smart” class.
What has been your path to becoming principal at Friendship Woodridge International?
My family is from Nigeria and I was also born there. In that country, after you graduate from college, you are expected to complete one year of service. My parents wanted me to continue that practice here in the United States. After graduating from college, I had to decide if I wanted to do something related to science, which I had been doing my whole life to prepare for medicine, or if I should I do something different. Teach for America recruited me at the University of Texas at Austin, and that is what brought me to D.C.
Teach For America was phenomenal. The program validated and solidified my spirit of advocacy and helped me focus on closing the achievement gap. While teaching, my principal recommended that I enter the New Leaders program, a program which prepares teachers to become school leaders.
I came to Friendship Woodridge during my first year as a resident principal. After that I decided that I wanted to be an assistant principal for a few years before ascending to a principal position. A couple of years after I started at Woodridge as the assistant principal, we soon became a Tier 1 school and gained International Baccalaureate authorization. It was hard work, but also “heart” work.
How did you become a Spanish teacher at Friendship?
I studied philosophy and literature in the Dominican Republic, where I am from. That’s where I started teaching. After that, I came to the United States and started medical school at Howard University, here in D.C. After two semesters, I realized I didn’t want to be a doctor. I wanted to be a teacher, like my grandmother.
This is my twenty-fifth year of teaching, and I have enjoyed every single day. It is truly rewarding to know you are making a difference and encouraging children. I want to remind them that there is no limit to what they can achieve if they remain focused on their education.
What is your approach to teaching Spanish?
I love it! There are 21 Spanish speaking countries, and I pick two or three every quarter to focus on. In addition to learning the Spanish language, it is important for scholars to learn about the food, music, sports, art and religion of different countries. We compare different cultures to the United States. It helps children to develop a broader perspective, and ultimately, a greater acceptance and appreciation for those who are different.
I also enjoy instilling a sense of pride in my native Spanish-speaking students. Sometimes they are shy about speaking their language. Hispanic Heritage Month is from September 15th to October 15th. It is an opportunity to remind our native Spanish-speaking students of our rich culture, our roots and to share our culture with classmates. I invite parents to come in and speak and read in Spanish with students.
What is your background in education?
I have been in education for ten years. I taught in a K-12 and higher education setting, then I worked in education policy, and now I work in administration. I love working to ensure that every child receives a world-class education, regardless of their family background or where they’re from. I am proof that when adults care enough, all children can succeed. As a junior in high school, I dropped out. I had a scholarship to a private school in New York City, and then I dropped out. I was that youth sleeping on the city metro and park benches.
How did you get back on track with your studies?
I had people who supported me — families, stakeholders, and friends in my life invested in my education. I was fortunate. Those who helped me get the scholarship helped me to get back on track. At the time, I didn’t even have a cell phone, so they had to find me in the park. That experience shaped me. It is why I can empathize with some of our scholars. I want to prevent them from going through what I went through. Sometimes that means giving them that extra ten minutes, a ride home, a home visit, or whatever is needed. It is important to go the extra mile for students who are struggling and to show that you care.
I had a student, Joseph, who got into a lot of trouble when I was a first-year principal. He was a student that some might even give up on – but for me, it was important to make a personal connection. When you see how kids live, it is easier to put yourself in their shoes. I went to his house and met with his family. He was not a bad student. He just needed to be shown a different path to success. He ended up on our honor roll and as a student ambassador for our campus.
What do you do at Friendship?
I’m the Director of Parent Relations. I help connect parents to resources within and outside of Friendship. One initiative that I am proud of is the re-launch and expansion of Parent University, which offers workshops for parents. There are always opportunities for us to be better parents.
What has been an especially successful workshop?
Our first workshop was about redirecting children’s behavior. The focus of this workshop was on communication for results, rather than to simply express frustration. Sometimes we need to regroup, get ourselves together, and then communicate. Another successful workshop was about how to deal with grief and support children with school during difficult times.
What was your path to becoming Director of Parent Relations?
I have always admired teachers. When my mother asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, I responded, “A teacher!” Then, I had my son and realized I could only work with one child at a time. I have always been in this environment, I just never went into the classroom.
My passion is for education, and also for families. I was born and raised in D.C., and I had people who believed in me. Because I had active parents in my life, I was able to experience so much. I also graduated as valedictorian of Friendship Collegiate in 2003. I am happy to be part of Friendship again and to support our families.
What has been your journey to becoming an Math Instructional Specialist at Armstrong? Did you start as a teacher?
Yes, and the journey began when I was younger. I was a horrible math student, but when math made sense, I loved it. I remember loving the order of operations and that it turned into a pyramid at the end. It was actually my struggle with math that made me a great math teacher. I understood where kids could go wrong.
Do you have any tips for math teachers?
Do the work as if you were one of your students, and then ask yourself, “What do I need to do to teach this?”
You mentioned Harry Potter inspired you. How?
I listened to the Harry Potter series last year. I love that Hogwarts is a magical and mystical place, and in every single classroom the learning is hands on. I want our classrooms to look like that–a place where kids work together to apply the math.
What do you love about working at Friendship?
I love seeing children walk through our doors and have the same opportunities as students in Georgetown. They need to know you care about them and you have high expectations because they can do it.
What was your journey to your current role as Business Manager?
I grew up on Minnesota Avenue, and attended Friendship Collegiate Academy. Collegiate prepared me for college because the structure was similar and the classes were rigorous. I pursued a Bachelor’s in Finance Management and a Masters in Business Administration–both at Trinity Washington University.
While completing my graduate program, I was also working at Friendship. I started as an intern, then an administrative assistant, and after that, a program manager. While working full time, I was also attending graduate school. I arrived at Friendship at 6:00 a.m. to complete class homework, then worked from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., and then evening classes started at 6:30 p.m. I had a full schedule! Now I work at Technology Preparatory Middle as Business Services Coordinator.
What advice do you have for students?
Frequently students and interns approach me (because I look like I’m their age)! I like to chat and answer their questions. Often my advice is this:
1. Remember everything you do throughout school matters. Don’t overlook the importance of your freshman and sophomore years–you are setting the foundation for your future success!
2.Talk to people. You never know what they have accomplished and how they might be able to help.
I grew up in Northeast Washington, D.C., and I went to Friendship Blow Pierce and then Collegiate Academy. Throughout my educational journey, Friendship teachers always went above and beyond. My only plan was to finish high school, but our teachers pushed us to apply for college. With their support, I decided to go to Bennett College for Women (on a full scholarship)!
Even once I started Bennett, Friendship teachers continued to support me – coming down to Bennett to help me settle in and sending care packages during finals week. Several Friendship teachers even attended my graduate school graduation in 2015.
Now I work within the HR department as a Talent Acquisition Coordinator. I love it because I am able to meet different people and give back to the Friendship community…Do you know someone who might be a great fit for one of our opportunities? Please let me know!