Edna Jordan, Smart Lab Coordinator at Friendship Southeast
At Friendship, I was encouraged to teach what I was passionate about. Because of my time in IT, I offered intro classes for web design, coding, networking, and junior engineering. I have noticed that you can introduce traditionally advanced subjects at lower grade levels. You just have to break it down in simple terms for students to understand. For example, I have kindergarten students learning about simple machines. There are 5-year-olds who can tell you about levers and fulcrums.
Sometimes it takes awhile before they understand, but if you stick with it and if you’re creative enough, they’ll get it eventually. You have to be open to different ways of explaining something. Look at your students’ faces – are they understanding? If not, try a different approach. Also, what works with one class may not work with another.
Students love to examine their favorite websites and to look at the code. They learn that it is all built with HTML as the foundation. They learn to code tag by tag. Some kids pick it up quickly, but everyone goes at their own pace. It is rewarding for them to see what they have built. If you can write code, the sky is the limit. There is a group of scholars here who see me on Fridays to code after they finished their work. They are the Southeast Coders.
Glen Mourning, 4th Grade Teacher at Friendship Armstrong
What has been your journey to your current position?
Back in 2009 when I finished my undergrad at the University of Connecticut, I decided that teaching was my calling, and so I started teaching in Hartford, Connecticut. Having been being born and raised in Connecticut, home was a great place to start and develop my profession without having to face too many external distractions. There was a lot of support at home.
But around my fourth year, I found that I wasn’t growing as much as I wanted. It was too easy, which made me uncomfortable. I wanted to draw from my warrior spirit and push myself to the next level. I did a lot of research and then spontaneously moved down to DC, teaching first at DCPS as a first grade teacher after having taught upper elementary previously. It was challenging at first, transitioning to work with younger kids, but I wanted this experience. I was looking for a challenge. One of my friends told me about Friendship, and he said to me, “Hey man, you need to work somewhere where they’re going to support you, where you’re going to grow.” I am just starting year 3 and it has been the best professional decision I have made in DC.
I think the name “Friendship” is fitting. You build relationships here. When you go to PDs for example, you’re meeting frequently with teachers across the network, regularly sharing the best practices with experts in similar situations or situations completely different from your own. I don’t think most charters do this every week.
Celecia Robinson, Instructional Specialist at Friendship Tech Prep
Are there any strategies you would recommend?
You should have a clear academic plan at the beginning of the year, of course, but you also need a plan for how you’re going to engage with your scholars and get to know them better. Plan with your students’ misconceptions in mind. Allow them to grapple with the content. Offer guidance, but let them find the answers. An inquiry-based approach to instruction has a profound and lasting impact on young minds. Consistently analyze formative and summative assessment data so that you can provide intentional feedback to your students. It really works!
You might start the school year by asking them to write a narrative about themselves. You’ll learn a lot about them this way. Get to know what extracurricular activities they’re involved in. Stop by a basketball game, go to an event. Build relationships by getting to know them. Learn about their interests and use this information to introduce content in a compelling way.
What does TASSC stand for?
TASSC stands for Technology and Applied Sciences for Sustainable Communities. The TASSC Academy offers students practical experience in agriculture and sustainability practices. In the 11th grade, students choose and follow a specific track. They will learn skills leading to STEM careers, like urban agriculture or medicine. Students also grow vegetables and fruits in our greenhouse!
Cheryl Ryder, Parent Liaison at Friendship Online
Can you describe what you do at Friendship Online?
I am the parent liaison/tutor at Friendship Public Charter School Online (FPCSO). I disseminate information to parents and help our new parents transition to online learning. I reach out to parents regularly to ensure they have all the necessary resources to be successful. I also coordinate field trips, and tutor middle school ELA students. Additionally, I schedule guest speakers and plan learning coach workshops.
What type of support have parents especially benefited from?
Whenever you make any kind of transition, it can be a little daunting. FPCSO requires some knowledge of technology, navigating the web, and being able to access courses online. Parents also need to know how our courses are structured and how to share objectives with students. I ensure learning coaches are aware of their students’ progress, attendance and crucial deadlines. I spend time with our learning coaches to help plan their daily schedule.
Blackboard is an important component to online learning and I assist our learning coaches with setting up their online connection. By the way, Blackboard is the same technology that students use for online college courses, which is great because it is preparing them for just that. We have third graders that can easily navigate our online classes. They can access their lessons with ease. I think their ability to use this technology is quite amazing.
Jason Edwards, Resident Leader at Friendship Chamberlain
Grammar often gets touched on when students are in elementary school, but often it doesn’t get regularly revisited in the classroom. I use music as a mnemonic device to remember how parts of speech interact. I also created an annotation system and a set of songs for nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, and prepositions that help students understand how these words work. It’s kind of like an updated version of Schoolhouse Rock. The songs reinforce content that we teach in class until students, who may see something as theoretical, see concrete examples with the mnemonic devices they can use to remember them.
Another thing that I try to do is to create an understanding of the background of literature before students start their journey through it. So for example, students read All Quiet on the Western Front in our second 8th grade module. It’s about World War 1, which adults often know very little about. The module offers one and a half days of frontloading information about the war before going straight into the novel. I spent about two weeks very intentionally getting students to understand the major players and what was going on at the time. We did role-playing and reenactments.
One activity was to repurpose the “Scramble for Africa” that happened in colonial Europe and having students enact a “Scramble for Friendship Chamberlain,” wherein they became colonial powers and tried to claim certain parts of the building to essentially annex it as their own. This helped them understand the concepts of militarism and nationalistic powers fighting against each other. It made students understand the impetus behind why the novel came to be in the first place.
Shonte Tulloss, PreK Teacher at Friendship Armstrong
Can you talk more about the Reggio Emilia philosophy?
The Reggio Emilia philosophy is about respecting the rights of young children. Your perception of a child permeates your interactions with them in their environment. We believe children are capable beings with infinite abilities. It’s about constructing an environment where you see them as partners. You are not the “all-knowing” adult; instead, as teachers, we are co-facilitators with the student and with the environment.
The physical environment looks different because we want children to recognize the space as a place to rest and explore. We value the space and time we have together to invite wonder and discovery. Materials such as clay, loose parts, wire, paint, and Sharpies become lenses that communicate student ideas, predictions, hypotheses, observations and feelings. The space also celebrates making thinking visible through extensive work in the atelier (art studio) with the atelierista, Ms. Adia Harris. The atelierista uses movement, shadow play, drawing, building and painting. This work allows teachers to help children find meaning in what they do and experience through observations and documentation. Documentation is the visual representation of children’s ideas, which can include quotes, drawings, sculptures, pictures or sounds.
Ellen Dalton, Legal Counsel
What are the characteristics of especially effective teachers that you have worked with over the years?
Over the years, I have noticed that certain teachers are especially capable of dealing with students who have more maladaptive behaviors. These teachers have a strong but nurturing approach.
In other words, they have good command over the classroom but they also know when to nurture children with love and compassion.
These teachers maintain a calm, steady voice. They get to know their children and families and support them when they are struggling. Many teachers go above and beyond, providing tutoring after school and reaching out to students who they know should be in tutoring but might not be coming. They find a way to connect with them.
One teacher I know always comes prepared to IEP meetings with additional resources. He’ll laminate different teaching instruments like math or reading flashcards, and he brings an extra set for the parents to take home. Teachers who start meetings with positive remarks about students are especially effective.
Obviously, no child is perfect. You’re going to have some deficiencies and some weaknesses, but it is important for teachers to highlight the positive aspects about students and list ways they will support students with their weaknesses.
Jendayi Johnson, PreK Teacher at Friendship Blow Pierce
What was your journey to your current position at Friendship Blow Pierce?
I am an alumna of Friendship. I graduated from Collegiate in 2006, I went to college, came back, and started working at summer school. I was then offered a position to be a dedicated aid, then a paraprofessional. After that I was offered the opportunity to become a teacher.
I enjoyed Collegiate. The teachers were very, very supportive. They were always on my back. I now work with some of the teachers I had in high school. It is really great to see everything come full circle.
How does it feel having attended Friendship in high school and to now be teaching here?
It is an honor to work alongside the teachers that taught me. I love that I am continuing the legacy by teaching early childhood students who are just beginning their educational journey. My son now attends Friendship Blow Pierce. It’s amazing.
I was proud to see Ms. Thompson win the 2018 Teacher of the Year award. We are like family and we look out for one another and our students. We work hard, and I’m so proud to work here.
Patrice Davenport, PreK Teacher at Friendship Southeast
What has been your journey to your current position?
I started in Baltimore City at a Baltimore City public school for two years, and then I moved to DC. I heard about Friendship from a friend who encouraged me to apply. As soon as I walked in the door I was like, “Oh, this is where I need to be,” because it was gave me immediate warmth. As soon as you walked through the door, you see kids smiling as well as the adults!
I’m glad that I came here. I’ve been here for four years teaching PreK.
What do you like about teaching that age group?
It’s the foundation. If scholars get a strong start at the beginning, then they are ready to go for their futures!
Every second is accounted for, and they’re learning something. They’re getting ready for kindergarten – which is a very important grade. They’re getting ready to read, which is of course necessary to build those foundational skills for older grades.
Faida Fuller, COO
What was your journey to your current position?
Prior to Friendship, I was at Chavez Schools for two years as the CFO. Although I had been in education for several years, that was my first time working in a charter school. I also held multiple positions with OSSE, the state education agency for four and a half years. The last position I had at OSSE was as the Director of Public Charter School Financing and Support, where I oversaw the federal grants that were distributed to charter schools across DC. It was also my responsibility to manage the Direct Loan and Credit Enhancement Program, which is a loan program that allows charters to renovate or purchase buildings. During this time, I got to learn more about Friendship and watch it grow.
OSSE was my doorway into education finance. Prior to that, I was a commercial banker in New York and here in DC.
What made you want to work in a charter school instead of a bank?
I have always been passionate about education equality. I felt this way even back in the early days, before I understood what a charter school was.
Once I found a way to merge my experience in finance with my passion for education, that’s when I was able to say, “This is what I want to do.” The opportunity manifested for me by going to OSSE. While I was at OSSE, I still felt disconnected from doing the real work that I wanted to be doing. I wanted to use my skills in a more tangible way. I needed to be at a school where I could see the kids and the impact of the work I’d done. Now, at Friendship Armstrong, it feels more real and it’s certainly more rewarding.
Quianna Richburg, Instructional Specialist at Friendship Chamberlain
Could you talk about what you do at Friendship Chamberlain?
I’m the ELA instructional specialist. My job is to work with our ELA and reading teachers to build effective literacy practices. I coach teachers and work with small groups of students.
I came to Friendship Chamberlain in 2012 as a seventh grade ELA teacher, and I taught seventh grade ELA right up until this year.
I love working with middle schoolers, especially seventh graders. Seventh grade isn’t typically a preferred grade, and I used to say that I never wanted to teach seventh grade, but that’s what I ended up teaching. As it turns out, I actually love it.
They are “the middle children” of middle school – they’re not sixth graders, so they’re not new to middle school, but they’re not our seniors either. It is always amazing to see them evolve and mature from seventh grade to eighth grade.
There’s one particular student that I taught here in my first year at Chamberlain in 2012. She’s actually graduating from high school this year. Over the years, we have developed a really close mentor-mentee relationship. She returns to Chamberlain regularly to complete community service and catch me up on what is going on in her life. A few times she has mentioned how seventh grade was a transformative year for her. The year I taught her, she participated in a mentorship girl group that my teammates and I created for some of our young ladies. The primary objective was to foster positive relationships between us and our students both inside and outside of school. We did zumba, fundraisers and created a safe space for the girls to talk about topics that were relevant to them. We ended they year with a sit-down dinner. It was beneficial for all the girls to see their teachers outside of the classroom setting, as it provided another layer of support for them. It is definitely something I am considering doing again during next school year.
Yvonne Tackie, Teacher at Friendship Blow Pierce
What do you like most about teaching?
Teaching is an art. It is relational, not transactional. I love the vulnerability that is often required of the profession to build lasting relationships with young scholars. I share my personal journey and hardships and in return, students feel comfortable sharing theirs. In doing so, we are better able to persevere and grow together.
I love looping with students with whom I already have already established relationships. I enjoy implementing creative lessons and making everything a teachable moment. In order for students to be interested in a lesson, it must be significant to them. For this reason, I incorporate current local and worldwide events, and we also explore real-world topics such as the Black Lives Matter movement. Students learn about the importance of the choices they make and their greater societal impact. They learn about empathy and differing perspectives.
What do you like about Friendship?
I love the support that I receive from my colleagues and leaders within the Friendship network. It has been deeply meaningful to have had the opportunity to engage with the founder and receive a classroom visit from the CEO. I am eternally grateful to Donald Hense and Patricia Brantley for creating a phenomenal place to teach and learn. Additionally, Dr. Jeffrey Grant, Chrissy Smith, Vielka Scott-Marcus, and Doranna Tindle are all great mentors who continue to empower me daily so that I can live in my purpose. I am deeply appreciative of the daily encouragement from the middle school team and my “Elite Eighth” grade comrades – Derrick Gooding, Lynne Gober, and Malcolm Johnson. Also, teachers like our T.O.Y. Samantha Thompson (mentee) and partner Robert Gregory provide wonderful motivation. The entire Blow Pierce staff work well together in serving students, and I am grateful to work with such dedicated professionals.
Eric Collazo, Academy Leader at Friendship Tech Prep
Could you talk a little bit about your experience as a resident leader at Friendship Chamberlain?
It has been a truly rewarding experience, and I certainly appreciate everyone’s welcome when I arrived. People were very open to sharing what makes Chamberlain great.
At Friendship Chamberlain, it has been phenomenal to observe firsthand the collective synergy that creates a world-class learning environment. Everyone has a shared vision and gives it 110%.
Everything is student-focused. We always ask ourselves, “How will this impact the kids?”
Another thing that drives the great work here is that teachers are provided a true sense of autonomy that also balances with accountability. As a result, teachers are able to infuse their work with their passions and engage students authentically.
Can you talk about your journey to your present position?
I came to Friendship in 2013. I started off as an English teacher at Technology Preparatory High, and I was eventually given the opportunity to lead as the summer and Saturday school principal. I appreciated the opportunity and loved every minute of it.
Friendship has poured its investment into me. I have been given opportunities to develop as an administrator to better support others, which has allowed me to build up my toolkit (and my confidence) as a leader.
Helen Price, Paraprofessional at Friendship Chamberlain
You have been at Friendship Chamberlain since 1998. What has your experience been like?
I learned a lot and I have filled many roles. I started out as a reading tutor, and then I moved to support a kindergarten classroom.
I heard about Friendship when I was looking for a school for my daughter. After attending an open house, I decided to enroll her in first grade. I came every morning to bring her to school and I enjoyed helping the teachers. Whenever they needessistance they often remembered, “Ms. Price can help!”
When the principal heard about me, he said, “I want to hire you! Be here Monday morning at eight o’clock.” So that’s what I did. I have enjoyed it so much that I stayed for 20 years.
What I love about Friendship is that if you have specific passions, you can apply them here. I wanted to work with special education children, so I was given the opportunity to go into a class and assist special education teachers. Now, after all these years, I concentrate on seventh and eighth grade special needs students and help them with their class work, homework, projects, and anything else I can do to help them move forward academically.
Artana Anderson, 12th Grade Student at Friendship Collegiate
In the fall, I’m going to the University of Pittsburgh to study psychology so that I can become a clinical psychiatrist. Friendship Collegiate has been instrumental in helping prepare me for college by showing me what I needed to do to get to where I want to be, guiding me along the whole way. I have been at Friendship Collegiate for all four years and during my first year, I was a little timid. But over time, I grew out of that and have built lasting relationships with teachers and friends. I have known most of my classmates since the 9th grade; we’re like a family.
One of my mentors here is Mr. Batts, my AP literature teacher, who was also my advisory teacher last year. He has always been there to answer questions and offer support on my rough days. He often checks in with me to see what I’m doing and ask if I need anything. Also, I’ve known Mr. Blood since the 10th grade, and he has answered every one of my questions about college and scholarships. I can go to Mr. Batts and Mr. Blood about anything.
Crystal Cooke, Teacher at Friendship Tech Prep
What was your journey to your current position?
It wasn’t a traditional journey since I didn’t go to school to become a teacher. I went to school for business administration and human resources – that’s what I was really into because I have always been fascinated by what motivates people.
During a summer right after my undergrad, I was offered a summer school teaching opportunity at my old high school, Ballou Senior High. It was a challenging experience and I said to myself, “Wow! Teaching is not easy.”
After I started making strides in my business career, I realized that I wasn’t satisfied. I started to think that teaching was more meaningful and that students would learn something from me that they could carry with them for the rest of their life.
I began as a substitute teacher here at Technology Preparatory Middle a few years ago. I started focusing on developing relationships with the kids, and as I saw the impact I was having I thought, “This is really amazing! This is what I’m supposed to do.” Mr. Pope, the principal at the time said, “You’re doing phenomenal work. We want to hire you as a full-time science teacher.” I enthusiastically said yes and have been teaching here ever since. I love the fact that I get to teach where I grew up. This is where the kids need me most.
What strategies have made you successful?
During my first year, I employed many different strategies. Last year, I noticed an ELA teacher who was particularly organized and successful. I asked her about it and she replied, “The best thing you can do is to make sure that you communicate with parents every step of the way. Once you do that, you will have minimal problems in your classroom.” I followed her advice and found it to be true. My students’ parents always tell me they appreciate knowing what their child is doing every step of the way.
As you’ve seen in my classroom, the kids are very engaged with the lesson, and they listen. I don’t have to do too much in the way of discipline. My students and their parents know that I genuinely care, and it is usually very difficult to teach a child anything without trying to get to know who they are beforehand. It is also crucial to be open, receptive, and a good listener.
Suzanne Conway, Teacher at Friendship Online
Could you talk about your position and how Online School (OLS) works?
Yes! I am the homeroom teacher (HR) for students in grades 3 through 5. All students receive K12’s fully accredited curriculum, delivered electronically, and to the home in the form of books, supplies, and other materials. A student’s typical day includes a combination of online and offline interactive lessons and activities, live instructional sessions with a highly qualified teacher and other students, and a variety of book assignments and other engaging activities. As the HR teacher, my position includes online and face-to-face instruction, monitoring, and guiding academic progress and attendance of students (and their learning coaches) as they progress successfully through the curriculum.
Our virtual school platform requires that a dedicated adult, usually a parent, (the learning coach) be at home with the student to ensure that the students is completing the daily plan, attending instructional sessions, and generally keeping things going throughout the day. Students receive an individualized curriculum that includes a full array of courses including math, literature, spelling, vocabulary, composition, health, history, science, music, and art. World languages and a variety of extra-curricular online clubs are also available for the students. Students work through their lessons to completion by the end of the year. If more time is needed in a particular lesson, that flexibility is available; as well as providing the opportunity for students to work at an accelerated pace for advanced learners. Across every grade, online schooling can be ideal for an advanced learner, where the curriculum is tailored to precisely fit the student to ensure they are challenged academically.
Can you show me what a typical student plan looks like?
This is a picture of a 4th grader’s daily plan. The lessons can be completed in any order. When completed, the status is indicated by the green circle with checkmark. If an assessment is present for that lesson, the score is shown. Additional details can be seen from the plan as well. Each of the lessons listed has a complete set of online and offline parts.
D’Angelo Parker, 11th Grade Student at Friendship Collegiate
I started studying Robotics at Friendship Southeast in 5th grade, and have been involved with robotics teams in middle school and throughout high school. Now I am in the Robotics Club at Friendship Collegiate. We work as a team to build projects, and everyone has a specific role. We have a programming captain, safety captain, and a communications captain. To work on these projects, you need to be creative and know what materials are needed. You also have to have strong problem solving skills, and learning to code also couldn’t hurt. The hardest part is making your design work. You build it over and over again until it does finally do what you want it to do.
I have taken introductory courses in programming and engineering basics, and I have had the opportunity to work with electrical engineers. When I graduate from Friendship Collegiate, I want to study mechanical engineering and computer science, and aeronautics at a university like MIT.
Marleen Greenleaf, Assistant to the CEO
What has your journey been to your current position at Friendship?
I have worked in administration for over 20 years. I started as a secretary, worked my way up to office management, then administrative director for three IT firms. I like working in administration to ensure the needs of everyone are met. Doing so makes me feel like I have accomplished something.
I am intentional in my approach to work and staying organized. Before I leave the office, I just create a plan for the next day of what I want to accomplish. I have little to-do notes and know where everything is – all files and folders are labeled and easily accessible.
Everyone in my family was a teacher. I taught kindergarten for two years and then moved into the banking industry. That is when I realized that working in administration within education would be the best fit for me. I enjoy working in a supportive capacity, but also enjoy interacting with our scholars and knowing that I am helping them in some small way get to and through college. We are supporting our future.
When the central office moved to the Friendship Armstrong building, we started to have more interaction with students. I am always in awe of the rigorous work that scholars complete – especially with technology. It is phenomenal to see the ease with which they use technology – computers, iPads – they’re second nature to them. It is wonderful that they have opportunities to be involved with our robotics teams and immersed in STEM. I was recently the scorekeeper for a robotics competition and was amazed by what the kids are doing.
Angelo Industrious, Dedicated Aide
Can you talk about what you do at Woodridge?
Building relationships is at the heart of what I do.
As a dedicated aide, I work one-on-one with a student with an IEP. I positively redirect him when he is off task, and support him academically.
Additionally, I act as a paraprofessional, helping teachers with small group instruction. I also monitor the hall, monitor classrooms, and help with aftercare. I check to make sure students are doing well, while especially focusing on students with an IEPs.
In the morning, I greet students and their families so that they get to know me.
I support wherever I can. It is a great feeling. We are a great team here. We are like a family.
What was your journey to your position?
I have been working with kids since fresh out of high school. I am from New York and I moved to D.C. during March of last year, after graduating from Penn State in 2015. I started at Friendship by working with Summer Bridge, helping incoming 9th graders transition to high school. I love Friendship – the mission and the kids. This organization has been a perfect fit.
I find it rewarding to help kids that may be in distress and get to know them, developing a bond. Because teachers are not able to connect with every student to the same extent, I fill this gap. I have a lot of love to give, so I want to be that person who says, “Hey listen, you might give up on yourself, but I’m not going to give up on you.”
Mentoring is so important.
What has been your journey to your current position?
I started at Friendship in 2004. I had been working with a program, which integrates technology into the classroom. I already knew about Friendship because I had trained many Friendship teachers to integrate technology into their classrooms. I knew it was a big, successful school system, and I was very excited to join. I taught computer literacy for a few years and I have been teaching engineering for about 10 years.
I have a background in architecture, and studied architecture in Milan. After pursuing certifications, I began teaching students engineering with the Project Lead The Way curriculum. It is a national college-level, rigorous curriculum. Teachers are provided with the tools to instruct students in engineering. Right now I am teaching engineering to students in 9th through 12th grade.
When my students go to college and study engineering, they will have an edge. For those who do not pursue engineering in college, they will have learned logical thinking, which will help them to solve problems, be data-driven and objective.
In my class, students follow a specific process. They recognize the problem and define it. This is the most important step because the better they define the problem, the easier it will be to fix it. They generate ideas to solve the problem – often through brainstorming. After they generate 25 to 30 solutions, they need to narrow these down. They learn and practice this process in my class. Then later, they pursue more specialized fields like digital electronics, architecture, or aerospace, which Mr. Nitz teaches.
Lastly, students complete a capstone project where they independently build a project and I act as a facilitator.
Can you talk about your journey to your current position?
This is my 11th year teaching early childhood. I started as a kindergarten teacher, then taught preK for several years. This is my third year teaching kindergarten. It has changed a lot. Kindergarten is like the new first grade now!
What do you like most about teaching early childhood?
I love the kids. They make me laugh. They keep me young. They keep me active. You never know what they’re going to say or do.
I use Class Dojo to keep in touch with my parents. They can easily send me messages with this app. I use it to let them know how their child is doing. I can also post photos of class activities. Yesterday I was checking my Class Dojo and I saw that one of my students had sent me a picture from her mother’s account. I thought the parent had sent me a message. I said, “Amor, why did you send me this picture?” She said, “Because I love you Ms. Price and I missed you during the weekend.” That made me melt.
What was your journey to your current position?
I graduated from Collegiate in 2013, I went to Sewanee and majored in Economics with a minor in education.
At Collegiate, I had phenomenal mentors. They held me to high expectations that I sometimes did not have for myself.
Mr. Blood, my A.P. government teacher, motivated us within and outside of the classroom.
Coach Rahim also set high expectations for us. With football, I didn’t excel in high school as much as I did in college. In 11th grade, I was 4’11 and 95 pounds, trying to play football. But it was never just about football–it was also about developing honesty, respect and dedication.
Another mentor, Mr. Daub, said things like, “Look, Kirk, I know for a fact that you could get 100 percent on this test. This time you didn’t get it. But you can get it next time.” Later, after he transitioned to Teach for America, he invited me as a college freshman to speak to over a hundred teachers about the importance of education.
I am now working with an organization in Miami called Public Allies. My role is to build bridges between students and alumni.
What has been your journey to your current position as IB Coordinator at Friendship Woodridge International?
After graduating in 2004 with a B.S. in Early Childhood Education from Tennessee State University (where I also received an M.Ed. in Administration and Leadership), I began teaching elementary grades K-2 in Metro Nashville Public Schools.
In the spring of 2011, I transitioned to Washington, D.C. to begin my doctoral studies at Howard University. My journey with Friendship began in 2012 as a fourth grade teacher. This was my initial introduction to the International Baccalaureate (IB) framework. At that time, David Lawery was the IB Coordinator, and he was instrumental in helping me implement inquiry-based learning. It was my “aha!” year. As I began to learn more about the framework and intentionally plan, I experienced a renewed passion for teaching and developed a deeper understanding of student-led, authentic learning.
Can you describe the IB program?
IB is a paradigm shift; a practice of visible learning and thinking for both students and teachers. In the IB framework, students are at the center of learning. The five framework essentials are: knowledge, concepts, attitudes, skills, and action. As a teacher, it is necessary to take a step back and allow students to take control of their learning. Each student has a unique set of experiences and knowledge, and the IB framework allows us to use that to engage them in the learning process. For many of our students, IB opens up a whole new world of learning.
What has been your journey to your current position?
I started as an ELA teacher at Friendship Collegiate Academy in 2004. I served in various capacities at Collegiate. Then I transitioned to the community office in 2007 as the secondary director of the Extended Learning Programs with the Center for Youth and Family Investment. I worked alongside Michael Robinson for about 10 years, bridging the gap between what happened during the school day and what happened after school.
In April of 2017, I began to serve in an interim role as the Director of Talent, which is now my current role.
Some of my greatest experiences at Friendship were in the classroom as a teacher, which has allowed me to better support teachers in other roles.
With these experiences in mind, I think about how we can retain and develop the best people to be a part of our organization and to further our mission.
We work to ensure that this is a place where people want to be – where they’re recognized for their strengths, receive the support they need, and are able to thrive.When you’re looking for teachers, what do you look for?
I look for grit. I look for innovators who are able to think about ways to engage scholars beyond the textbook. I look for those who can differentiate and reach out to all students. I look for teachers that are agents of change.
What has been your path to becoming Academy Director at Friendship Blow Pierce?
I started as a substitute teacher. I decided to get into education as a way to impact society and our world. I moved to D.C. on a whim. Everything fell into place, and I became a full-time Pre-K teacher the following year. Then, during the following years, I was a third and fourth grade teacher. I loved it. It felt like education was my calling. Then I transitioned to a Dean of Culture role. It was a big shift, but I never forgot what it was like to be a teacher.
What was it like to teach different grades?
When I taught Pre-K, I learned how crucial it is to set clear expectations. You have to be especially specific with the little ones. Some think this changes as kids get older, but I learned this is something that remains constant across grade levels.
For example, if you want students to wrap up an activity, count down 3-2-1 instead of saying “wrap it up.” Wrap it up could mean different things and doesn’t set a clear expectation on when. Limit ambiguity. Also, this translated well when I was a teacher in terms of data, using specific data points. Instead of “I feel like students are doing well,” dive into specific data.
Can you describe what you do at Friendship Online?
I am a teacher and a tutor with Friendship Online. I teach 3rd through 5th grade math, and I also tutor students who need additional enrichment.
What is the difference between a traditional classroom and Friendship Online?
We are very hands-on. We are able to actively monitor where students are as they complete the work. Students have up to three times to take the regular assessments. If a student fails a test, we notice it right away and they have another opportunity to retake the test. If they fail again, I’ll step in as a one-on-one tutor until the student grasps the content and can move on.
Can you talk about what types of support parents have especially benefited from?
Cheryl Ryder, our parent coordinator shows them how to get in tune with their children, as well as how to work with their strengths.
If they are strong in the morning, they might complete the more difficult subjects then. If they’re strong in the evening, they might start out slow and move to the more challenging subjects later in the day.
I have a large class, but with tutoring, I am able to work with students in small groups. It is four students and myself in an online classroom. I give them problems to work on independently, and they have to go to “the board” on the computer and work out those problems. They have a microphone and explain their answers. We use Blackboard Collaborative technology.
It’s very cutting edge for elementary school. Read more >
Can you talk about your journey to your current position as a middle school math teacher at Friendship Chamberlain?
I started at Friendship Blow Pierce in 8th grade. My mother took me out of public school because it wasn’t a good fit for me academically or socially. I had a great year at Blow Pierce, and from there I went on to Friendship Collegiate. I participated in the Early College Program and was part of POSSE. I received a Friendship Scholars scholarship. If you had asked me ten years what I wanted to be, I would have said “an architect.” After leaving DC for college at Lafayette College in Pennsylvania and then returning, I saw my city differently. That was when I began to consider teaching. Then my mentor, Rictor Craig, helped to make this decision final. He introduced me to different teaching training programs including the DC Teaching Fellows, Urban Teacher Center, and Teach for America. After a lot of research, I decided that UTC was the best fit for me. It was a 4-year program and it included a dual master’s degree and placement in a school. I graduated from that program in 2015.
I have enjoyed this opportunity to give back to my community.
What has it been like to teach Eureka Math?
This is my fourth year at Friendship. During my first year we taught Go Math, which was less holistic. When we switched over to Eureka math it was overwhelming at first because it was a new way to teach math. Eureka requires students to know conceptual versus procedural. Growing up, we learned procedural, “This is how you solve it,” but not necessarily, “This is why it works.” I tell parents that Eureka is probably the best thing to happen to our children for a couple reasons. It introduces the correct vocabulary to students, like “decompose/compose” versus “borrow,” etc. It starts with place value which is required to truly read, understand, and manipulate numbers. Even my own understanding of math has deepened because of Eureka.
What was your journey to your current position?
I’m originally from India, and I completed my Master’s in Mathematics from Delhi University. I also completed a second Master’s in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Maryland, College Park in 2013. I started teaching at the private high school in India where I had attended all those years ago. My husband, Vikrant, encouraged me to explore teaching options outside of India. In 2009 I found an opportunity to teach middle school math at Prince George’s County. Even though I had nine years of teaching experience in India, the teaching style, culture, and the new system was very different and made the transition a bit challenging. My husband asked me if I wanted to go back. I said, “No, I didn’t take up this challenge just to quit. I will not give up. I will learn every day and develop my expertise.”
I knew that I had strong content knowledge, and students had always been receptive to my teaching style. I knew my strengths, I knew my weaknesses. I tell my students today that it is very important to first identify the problem. If we do not know what the problem is, we cannot fix it. I started observing my colleagues. I even took notes on every statement they made in response to what a student asked if my responses were not working. After this, my teaching greatly improved, and students began to respect me and became more receptive to my teaching. I also structured my lessons to be more activity oriented, whereas in India, we practice more direct teaching methods. I taught at Prince George’s County for three and a half years, but because my expertise was in higher level math, I took the opportunity to teach at Friendship Collegiate in 2012.
What has been your journey to your current position?
I started as a 4th and 5th grade classroom teacher, and then I became a science resource teacher at a school in D.C. As a classroom teacher, I found it rewarding when I impacted children, their families, and the community as a whole. Once I was hired as the the science resource teacher and taught all students in grades 3 through 6, I had the ability to reach even more students. My plan was to become an assistant principal and later assume a principalship, so I began working on my doctorate. Leaders noticed the impact I was having and offered me a principal position. They saw that I could go in and change, change, change! I moved around to different schools for a couple of years, and then I realized that I wanted a home where I could see my strategies take root.
I received a job offer from Friendship Public Charter School and have been fortunate to have had the opportunity to collaborate with other forward-thinkers who are willing to apply proven strategies to help students and the community. I am passionate. I am supportive. I am dedicated. And I am sincere. I love not just what I do, but the people I serve as well.
Can you describe some of the strategies that have worked for you?
Yes. One strategy that works is thematic planning. This type of planning allows for deep dives into the material from class to class, focusing on standards across all disciplines. Our children need to grapple with complex text and have the accompanying conversations. Students participate in relevant field experiences within and outside of the building. They go to museums, memorials, and monuments. We have so many resources here in D.C.
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.
Read more >
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!