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.
Every day we talked about how we were just as smart, and we were going to be even more advanced by the end of the year. This was during the height of No Child Left Behind and state testing was very high stakes. Inevitably, it was brought up a lot. We talked about how we were going to get higher scores than the class next door. At first they didn’t believe it. However, after talking about it all the time and about how we were on track, they started to believe in themselves and got competitive, working extra hard. By the end of the year, when our scores came in, my class was visited by the governor. We found out that we did get higher scores than the advanced class next door. We got the highest scores in the entire state. A lot of those students are in college now.