Executive in Residence, Seattle Foundation
How did your interest in education begin?
Shortly after moving to Seattle, I met this young teacher who was having a huge impact with underserved students in her North Seattle biology classroom, during a time when she and I were enrolled in Leadership Tomorrow. As we discussed what was then called the "achievement gap," I realized that improving educational outcomes in the public education space can have more of an impact on the goal of social justice than any other pursuit. Those conversations were incredibly meaningful, gradually shifting my professional focus towards education. And the young teacher eventually became my wife.
How have you been involved in education, professionally or as an advocate, over the years?
As executive director of a couple of youth development agencies serving low-income students, then managing community and government relations for an education advocacy organization. I then led an early learning demonstration project (Educare) in White Center while working on my doctorate at UW and have worked as a education researcher and consultant for the last ten years. Oh, and I served on the Seattle School Board.
What one or two education issues are you most passionate about (and why)?
I have been driven to understand the mechanisms that allow a reasonably well-funded school district in a progressive, highly educated city to produce shockingly disparate academic outcomes (the fifth largest urban racial opportunity gaps in the nation!). We would not allow any other publicly-funded institution to produce such disparities, but we sometimes turn a blind-eye to these facts, despite the fact that they have life-altering implications for too many of our fellow citizens. I think we can do better, and have sought to understand how this phenomenon exists in the hope that I might help to interrupt it.
Tell us about an educator who made a particularly large impact on your life.
I am an Army brat and my family traveled all over the United States plus three years in Japan. In 6th grade, my dad was transferred to Ft. Campbell, on the border of Tennessee and Kentucky, and I encountered the first (and only) African-American K-12 teacher I was to have. Ms. Beeson was a serious and on-task math teacher who didn't accept any of my excuses and expected excellence every day. She pushed me through my lack of confidence and disaffection to get the first "A" in math that anyone in my family had ever earned. I was later to learn that math instruction is less about catering to those that are mathematically gifted and much more about teaching persistence and resilience, a lesson that has continued to serve me well.
Share an unusual/fun fact about yourself.
I'm currently training to run in the Seattle Marathon, which will only be fun when the finish line is in sight.