Director of Strategy, Policy, and Communications, League of Education Voters
How did your interest in education begin?
I am the son of two social servants who have dedicated their careers to equity in access to quality health care and educational opportunities. The values instilled by my family stayed with me through my time in college and and when I became a teacher. In many ways, this is not much different from so many others with parents in public service. My passion to dedicate my career to better educational outcomes for kids certainly stems from seeing the changing demographics of our public education system—today, more than half of students in the nation's public schools are living in low-income households. More than half identify as students of color. I am this student, and thus I am obligated to do my part to flip the paradigm on existing outcomes.
How have you been involved in education, professionally or as an advocate, over the years?
Over the years, I have served as a teacher and advocate in six states, including my homestate of Washington. I was an elementary special education teacher in New York City and Washington, D.C. I've lobbied on behalf of better public education policies and crafted law and policy within state legislatures. Most recently, I serve on a school board and take advantage of every opportunity to share information about the current state of our education system.
What one or two education issues are you most passionate about (and why)?
Educators and school design. The impact of both on student outcomes is highest above all other in-school factors. If education is really the great equalizer, then our focus has to be steadfast on the adults who are tasked with teaching students what they need to be successful and fulfilled in career and life. One thing I appreciate about Dean Tuan's take on the UW College of Education is her view that it is "not your grandmother's college." Our K-12 schools should be much the same way, entirely redesigned around the individual student experience. Our student population has never been more diverse. Educators and school environments should reflect a skill set and structure to match those increasingly diverse needs.
Tell us about an educator who made a particularly large impact on your life.
Mrs. Marx was by far the most inspirational teacher I had because she taught me how to love learning for the sake of learning. She, as most elementary teachers, took us on incredible field trips. In many ways she is like Miss Frizzle from The Magic School Bus ... carrying a mantra of "take chances, make mistakes and get messy!" I also had the privilege of being in Mrs. Marx's class for both 1st and 2nd grade, so I remember her most because of that consistency year over year.
Share an unusual/fun fact about yourself.
I am a triathlete. Somehow along the way I thought it would be great to spend over 12 hours swimming, biking and running for 140.6 miles in one day. It may seem crazy, it is, but ultimately the feeling of accomplishment after a race is second to none.