Chelsea Mayo ’14, Wake County Public Schools

Chelsea-MayoAll manner of things were tacked to the walls and bulletin boards: pamphlets on the truth about drugs and how to talk to teens about suicide, college preparation materials, the school bell schedule, a few drawings by young children, a Princeton recruitment poster, contact information for hotlines and mental health services. Just by looking around the small yet welcoming office of high school counselor and Student Assistance Program Coordinator Angela Jankowsky ’00 it was clear to me that this was not only a busy woman but one who wore many different hats: mom, social worker, and academic counselor, to name a few. I was at the Cary High School in Cary, a town just outside of Raleigh, North Carolina, to shadow Angela for three days, hoping to gain insight into the day-to-day life of a school counselor.

The most valuable parts of the experience were when I got to witness one-on-one counseling sessions between Ms. J (as the students call her) and one of the teens. I had not been sure if I would be allowed to observe these conversations, for confidentiality reasons and because I thought the students might be uncomfortable with my presence, but I am very grateful that I was. Sometimes students would come to Student Services out-of-the-blue to speak with Angela because they were having a breakdown and other times teachers sent them because they were struggling in class for some reason. A few times Angela had to check in on one of the pregnant girls at the school to see how everything was going. I saw that quite often students will report their friends for making suicidal statements or because they saw evidence of cutting. In these cases one of the counselors would then have to talk to the reported student and would then be required to report these incidents to the parents. Additionally, Angela sometimes teaches classes on the signs of suicide and suicide prevention.

There always seemed to be many messages on her answering machine! When not counseling, she spent a lot of time making phone calls which she would afterwards always explain to me. For example, she might be calling the local hospital to check on a student who had just given birth or she might be discussing with Homebound Services a student who had a concussion and cannot come to school for a few weeks. She also did a lot of negotiating with administration and other parties over cases of homelessness.

In addition to dealing with the crisis situations, there is an academic counselor side to her job. For example, the first day I was there she had to assist a class of tenth graders register for next year’s classes online. The next two days I spent some time helping her go through the schedules one-by-one to ensure each student had signed up for the right courses. On my second day I accompanied a tour of the school she was giving to incoming ninth graders and their families.

I was fortunate that during two of Chelsea Mayo 3the days of my Princeternship the school psychologist was on campus. Megan Trapasso is the school psychologist at Cary High but also at an elementary school in the county, since school psychologists generally split their time between a couple of schools. I have been considering a career in either school counseling or school psychology, so this opportunity to speak with her would allow me to see the difference between the careers first hand.

I spent a few hours with Megan, learning and asking questions about what her job entails. She told me all about the IEP meetings she participates in and the types of special education and behavioral assessments she administers. Due to rules of confidentiality, I could not actually sit in on one of her meetings or sessions with students or parents but she gave me a good idea of how the job generally goes. For demonstration we ran through an online evaluation for autism of a pretend four-year old named “Charlie Brown,” and she even gave me an assessment of my reading level (just for fun). Megan also took me to visit two of the inspiring special education classrooms at Cary High, one for students of moderate intellectual disability and one for students with autism.

Chelsea Mayo 1Ultimately, my three days interning at Cary High were invaluable to me. I would recommend the Princeternship Program to absolutely any student because it is a great way to gain experience and understanding of a career of interest in just a few days.  In my few days I learned how busy and varied the day of a school counselor tends to be. I learned how frustrating and at other times rewarding the job is. I learned the difference between a school psychologist and a school counselor, but most of all I learned that I am more intrigued by and inclined toward this field than ever. This Princeternship really helped me make some decisions about my future and though I am not yet sure what my future holds, I feel things are definitely becoming clearer. I would like to thank Princeton Career Services, Angela Jankowsky ’00, Megan Trapasso, and the Cary High School for making this great experience possible!

Amy Garland ’14, Brooklyn Latin School

Amy-GarlandI spent my spring break visiting The Brooklyn Latin School (TBLS), a recently founded specialized high school in New York City modeled on the famous Boston Latin School. My wonderful host, Principal Jason Griffiths ’97, was kind enough to provide me a wide range of experiences, from sitting in on his meetings with teachers to auditing classes. I want to thank him and TBLS for this special opportunity, I learned much more than I could have hoped to about teaching, education, but most importantly leadership.

I came into this Princeternship with a particular interest in TBLS’ distinct educational culture—students are required to take Latin for all four years, to wear a uniform, and to call their teachers “magistri.” Of course, as a Classics major, the nerd in me reveled in these aspects. As someone from New York City, with a clear idea of how potentially absurd it was that a school founded in 2006 could foster a culture so seemingly distant from this modern environment. Although these are the features that stood out for me before I arrived at TBLS, they were not the ones that I considered most important by the time I left. The culture, as part of the eight “essential features” of TBLS (including its International Baccalaureate program), only formed the backbone of the school’s success. With these features established, it was up to the school’s leadership and faculty to take them and run with them, as it were. The unrelenting dedication of every person working in that building is what truly made it a special place.

The week I visited was actually a rather strange week for TBLS as they were just about to administer their Interim Assessments (IA). So on my first day, I sat in on a variety of classes, as that was to be the last day of classes that week. In most classes I visited, the teachers and students were reviewing for these IA exams. These tests are made by the teachers themselves to diagnose how the students are performing. The students were all very attentive and clearly concerned with doing their best, asking questions and clarifications of the teacher’s expectations.

I also visited a number of Latin classes, a subject that seems to be the focal point of many students’ angst. Predictably, mandating everyone to take the language for four years is not a terribly popular prospect for many people. However, I was struck by the creativity especially of TBLS’ Latin department. They did not use textbooks (Ecce Romani, anyone?), but instead cultivated their own curriculum with new methods of discerning the ancient language. It was very refreshing to see such innovation in what often seems to be a stale process, especially when you are just memorizing declensions and conjugations.

This was something that I noticed in the classroom and then learned more about during my time spent with Principal Griffiths—the faculty at TBLS are young, driven, and competitively creative with their curriculum. The place is just bursting with new ideas of how to make the classroom a lively place, to install a sense of diligence, and also to motivate these students to perform at their best.

The other two days I spent with Principal Griffiths, Garland 1shadowing him while he reconnected with students and faculty casually in the hallway as well as sitting in on meetings he had with his various staff. For instance, we met with his dean of discipline to go over the consequences of the various academic dishonesty incidents that had occurred during the IA examinations. We also met with the Parent Coordinator to discuss an open house that they were preparing for that evening for admitted students (an event that I attended and enjoyed very much!). I also got to sit with the Latin department and help grade their IA exams, which was interesting and surprisingly very fun.

Principal Griffiths also generously offered me time to just sit and speak with him in his office about TBLS’ unique mission, the NYC Department of Education’s increasingly frustrating bureaucracy, and how to cultivate such an amazing faculty. Witnessing his dealings with the people he worked with was very interesting not only from an education-specific perspective, but also just in terms of understanding Garland 3how best to lead such an intricate institution with many different moving parts. He gave me a number of great pieces of advice, including how the principal (or any leader) needs to stay focused on the mission, or the big picture, and should leave the details of the day-to-day to the people hired to do those very things. This also entails ensuring that you have the best people around you, which Principal Griffiths has managed to accomplish through a rigorous teaching hiring process. This leadership style helps maintain the sense of ownership the faculty has over their teaching and curriculum, for example.

My time at TBLS was not only a great learning experience but also a directive one—I am now more motivated than ever to enter education in some way, whether that is as a secondary school teacher or as a policy maker. Nothing really beats the empowerment that a thoughtful (and thoughtfully administrated) education can provide.

Dale Shepherd ’13, YingHua International School

Dale-ShepherdFor my Princeternship, I spent three days visiting Ying Hua International School, a Chinese immersion school for pre-school through second grade students. After this experience, I am now more certain than ever that I would like to one day establish something similar. Nevertheless, if my time at Ying Hua taught me that running such a school can be rewarding, it also revealed the many, many obstacles and challenges that come along with this kind of endeavor.

The school, located in Princeton, was only a short drive north on highway 27. When Erin (another Princetern) and I arrived, we were a little surprised to discover that the school is actually a church. In fact, many of the students were rehearsing in the sanctuary for Chinese New Year activities as we entered. We were greeted by our host, Kristin Epstein ‘97. Kristin was formerly an engineer and currently works in marketing and development for Ying Hua. She gave us a tour of and a brief introduction to the school. Although the classrooms have other uses during church services, aside from a few signs outside each room, it was quite obvious that learning in Chinese was taking place inside them, as you may notice from some of the pictures. Kristin explained that Ying Hua rents the building from the church during the week but will soon need a more permanent space as they expand to sixth grade.

For most of the first day, we chatted with Kristin about theShepherd 1 school’s history, funding, and other logistics. From our conversation, it became clear that managing a school at any stage requires a strong support system financially and professionally. Ying Hua is a private school, which means tuition comprises a large part of the operating budget. However, before a school exists, people have to buy into the idea and some capital has to be invested. Without the significant contributions made by donors, starting Ying Hua would have been impossible. We also talked to Natalie, the principal. She echoed the importance of personal and professional connections and told me about useful opportunities to learn more about education. Both Natalie and Kristin were involved in an unsuccessful attempt to establish Ying Hua as a charter school. It was unbelievable how much opposition they faced from local schools and government, which ultimately led to not acquiring a building and thus failing to obtain the charter. They each acknowledged how onerous their work is but did not seem to regret choosing it.

The second day we got to see the students a little more as they continued rehearsing for the new year performance. I was amazed at how well they spoke Chinese. Shepherd 4Bear in mind that more than half of the students do not have parents who speak Chinese at home. Furthermore, Kristin explained that they use an inquiry-based curriculum, and I could not help but feel a little envious that students not only learn in Chinese but have quite a bit of autonomy in choosing what they want to study. The teachers do all of this and still manage to cover the standards mandated for public schools as well. Although I personally, do not place extreme importance on the state curriculum, Kristin explained that some parents feel more comfortable knowing there is a higher authority of standards and that their children would be able to function in non-Chinese academic settings if they left the school. This is actually an interesting point because before first grade, the students are taught completely in Chinese, which means they might be unfamiliar with some important terms if they did leave the school before being taught in English.

On the last day, we went to Princeton Senior Resource Center to watch the students perform for Chinese New Year. The senior citizens, many of whom were Chinese, simply adored them. Even though I had seen the students rehearse, I was still quite impressed seeing a more complete form of the show. After the performance, Kristin invited Erin and me to the Nassau Club for lunch where we socialized with other alumni from various years, which really enhanced the experience.

The Princeternship turned out to be much more than I expected. I knew we would get to shadow an alum and observe a school, but I did not expect it to feel as natural as it did. Right from the beginning, Kristin and the Ying Hua staff made us feel as if we belonged there. I recommend this Princeternship to anyone interested in the operations of education. It gave me more perspective about my career goals and life after Princeton.

Erin Kim ’15, YingHua International School

Erin-KimI am passionate about education in East Asia (especially Korea and China) and want to help change it by redefining the true meaning of education, shifting the emphasis on college admissions and test scores to the importance of nurturing basic human values. A potential way I’m considering to actualize this dream is to establish a school in Korea that does things differently from the traditional Korean schools. Although I have had experiencing teaching and mentoring, I had no idea what went into running a school. So I applied to the Princeternship at YingHua International School, a not-for-profit, independent school in Princeton that offers a Chinese-English dual language education for pre-school through elementary grades.

Dale and I were generously hosted by Kristin Epstein ’97, the Director of Development at YingHua. Most of our days were spent talking to Kristin and Natalie, the Director of the school and asking them questions. They gave us insight and shared about certain challenges of running, fundraising and recruiting teachers for a small, private school like YingHua. We also had great conversations about education in the U.S. and China.

It was helpful to see the tangible actions taken in order to support and expand the school. In order to raise money, Bonnie (the founder of YingHua) builds personal connections with private donors and Kristin needs to constantly search and apply for grants from governments, corporations and foundations. While we were there, Kristin was applying for grants for the school’s music and physical science programs so we were able to help her brainstorm materials that would benefit the students. Kristen also showed us specific ways she marketed the school, such as purchasing Internet banner advertisements, improving the website and mailing pamphlets.

We also received a tour of the classrooms, Kim 1which looked like my elementary school classrooms except that everything was in Chinese rather than in English. I was most struck by how fluently and effortlessly all of the children spoke Mandarin despite the fact that many of them do not come from Chinese-speaking families or Chinese backgrounds. It was amazing to see 4- to 7-year-olds conversing in Mandarin like native speakers. I also loved how YingHua emphasizes an inquiry-based curriculum and exploration of the arts, rather than simply educating students in a set of isolated subject areas.

Before this Princeternship, I felt like I only had vague ideas and ideals to work with when I looked to my future plans. Through my time at YingHua, I was able Kim 3to actually see concrete actions that must be taken in order to manage an experimental school. The experience has given me a clearer sense of which classes, opportunities and internships I should look into. It also confirmed my impression that the path to my dream will not be a straightforward and easy one. However, seeing the lively and enthusiastic students who are clearly benefitting from the incredible mission of YingHua confirmed my commitment to continue down this path. I am extremely thankful to Kristin for providing such an invaluable and crucial experience that has given me both direction and motivation to move forward.

Aaron Yin ’16, Teach For America

My two days at Teach For America’s National Office in New York were very enlightening. I went with fellow Princetern Tula Strong, and our host was Sylvia Monreal ’10, a Coordinator on the Recruitment Strategy and Infrastructure Team in TFA. Ms. Monreal wasn’t able to meet us in person, but she and Alex Krupp ’10, an Associate with the National Alliances Team, set up a detailed schedule for our time at the headquarters. We also had the chance to debrief with Ms. Monreal over the phone at the end of each day. The Princeternship was very organized, allowed me to meet many fun, eager, and talented TFA members, and gave me a sense of what working with the TFA Recruitment Team is like. I thank Ms. Monreal and Ms. Krupp for planning an exceptionally educational two days!

Day 1:
We started the day by meeting Joe Picini, an Associate on the Recruitment Team, who showed Tula and I around some of the national office – each floor is really big and aesthetic – and introduced us to members of the team. We then briefed on plans for the day before talking about our interests, backgrounds, and what we wanted to get out of this experience. I was mainly interested in learning how the TFA Corps model accommodated for students’ diverse backgrounds and learning styles, as well as research done on what makes an effective teaching method.

Until noon, we worked on a project assigned to us to complete during the Princeternship. The project was part of a marketing campaign geared toward encouraging Princeton upperclassmen to apply for TFA Corps before the upcoming last deadline. Given a long list of Princeton-TFA Corps alumni and relevant information about them with regard to the survey, we were asked to:

  • Select 10 members who would be most effective for this campaign and outline our selection criteria.
  • Create a survey that would elicit good words of wisdom and stories of members’ TFA experiences.
  • Draft an email to the members to introduce the survey and ask them to complete it.

On our last day we would present our project to the Recruitment Team.  For lunch, we met up with another Princeton alum, Sumin Lee ’09, who is Executive Assistant of the Growth, Development & Partnerships Team. We had a TFAbulous time talking about Princeton experiences, career paths, what working in the real world was like – all while eating delicious NYC food.

Afterward, Sumin took us to meet Charlie Odom, Director of Selection Quality and Admissions, who told us more about the TFA Corps selection process, the qualities he and his team look for in applicants, different ways in which those qualities can be conveyed, etc. and also answered questions Tula and I had regarding our interests.

We finished Day 1 with a debrief with Ms. Monreal over the phone. She was really interested in hearing about our experience, answering any questions that we had regarding Princeton and TFA, and even followed up on our debrief, sending several helpful links and additional information the day after based on what we were interested in learning more about.

Day 2 
We spent most of the morning working on our project, getting it ready for presentation in the afternoon. For lunch, we ate with Sumin and also met a few of her friends as well, who told us about their time at Corps and working here. What’s really neat about the people working at the national office is how young and motivated they are about TFA and its goals. For me, it’s still hard to imagine myself graduating and working in a job, so seeing the people at TFA was rather inspiring and gave me a sense of the environment I would like to work in.

For our presentation, Tula and I met with Alexander Donovan (Xan), a Recruitment Director. Xan shared stories about his time at the Corps before we went over the project with him. After our presentation, he gave us insightful feedback on its strengths as well as places where it could be more specific in order to better engage the members we selected.

We ended our second day by debriefing with Ms. Monreal and talking to her about other aspects of TFA and the Princeternship experience in general.

Stepping in the shoes of Teach For America’s Recruitment Team and working on a small project definitely shed new light on my perspective of working in general and pursuing education policy and research. It was nice being around such a fresh, upbeat, and innovative community. I would definitely recommend this experience to anyone interested in teaching, learning about what makes a good teacher, and how to inspire others to pursue a career in education. This Princeternship experience is something I will definitely keep in mind while deciding what I want to major in. Thanks again to Ms. Monreal and Ms. Krupp for putting together such a comprehensive Princeternship, and thank you to everyone at TFA who shared their stories and advice with us as well!

Tula Strong ’15, Teach For America

Tula-StrongOver intercession, I had the pleasure of working in the Recruitment department at Teach For America headquarters in New York, New York. For two days during the break, my fellow Princetern and I were given the ability to meet numerous Teach For America employees and work on a TFA marketing campaign specialized for Princeton’s campus. For me, I went into this trip curious about how a good teacher is chosen. As a teacher prep student, I have been trying to understand what are the characteristics and ways of thinking of great teachers. The Teach For America mission thrives on picking undergraduates who will be great teachers. The first two years of teaching are infamously difficult, and the fact that TFA corps members primarily serve during their first two years of teaching is significant. Teach For America has to choose people who will be great teachers, and I was curious to see how the organization did so.
Over the course of my two days, I was able to find out the answers to my questions very quickly. The very first day that me and my Princetern partner walked into the office we were met with people passionate about the Teach For America vision, and wiling to answer any questions, hesitations, and ideas we had about the organization. I learned that Teach For America looks for potential amazing teachers from many different backgrounds. They seek people who can relate to the diverse students they have—a diversity that includes so many aspects. They seek leaders, those who are able to work with people, determined, persistent, and diligent. These characteristics make perfect sense for the mission of the organization, and it gave me a new perspective of what goes into a good teacher. Throughout my two days, I definitely consider these conversations with the members of Teach For America the most valuable. I was able to see the organization from the perspective of those working for it. I saw how the organization is trying to spread awareness of the things that need to be fixed in the education system, and how recruiting corps members to go into high-needs schools gives these corps members a sensitivity and connection to education reform. I can only respect that mission and the Teach For America efforts.

In addition, the work environment at Teach for America very much aligned with its mission. Teach For America is a young determined organizationStrong 4 with innovative ideas, and the work environment at the headquarters is definitely youthful and modern. There were exercise balls that replace typical office desks all around the office, numerous colorful lounge areas, and cute wall displays. The majority of workers seemed to be in their 20’s or early 30’s, and were diverse in many ways. Nonetheless, the work climate was very effective and focused.

Overall I am very grateful that I was able to go on this trip. I learned a lot about the organization and gained a lot of respect for the organization. Thank you to Sylvia Monreal, Alex Krupp, Joseph Picini, and Sumin Lee for organizing our Princeternship and helping us throughout it!

Christian Brown ’14, Teach for America

Christian-BrownTeach for America is a national nonprofit whose mission is to “eliminate educational inequality by enlisting high-achieving recent college graduates and professionals to teach.”  TFA corps members teach for at least two years in low-income communities around the nation, and after their terms of service, they become members of a larger movement to effect change in our nation’s public schools. Teach for America alumni go on to become school leaders, pursue careers in medicine and consulting, and start their own entrepreneurial ventures.  And in all of their endeavors, they continue to demonstrate exceptional loyalty to and support for Teach for America.  So when I began my internship I was especially interested in learning about recruitment.  I wanted to know more about how TFA attracted talented leaders who remained committed to education and reform beyond their classroom service. 

Fortunately I was able to work with the recruitment team for most of my internship.  I, along with one other Princeton student, was responsible for putting together a Princeton-specific recruitment project for the TFA team.  Our task was to research alumni of TFA who had also attended Princeton as their undergraduate university.  We were then instructed to come up with a survey to help them convey to current Princeton students the value of having gone through the TFA program.  We wanted to know about their experiences in the corps, the networks and opportunities their service made available to them, and their current careers.  I was astonished in conducting our research at how many alumni remained in education following their time in the corps and at the diverse leadership roles that TFA alumni held in all sectors.  The purpose of this project was to use this information to make future recruitment campaigns more applicable and appealing to Princeton students in particular. 

The most important thing I learned about recruitment is that it is done in a very personal, detailed manner.  Recruiters put a great deal of energy into targeting students that would be ideal for TFA, but they also put a good deal of energy into increasing campus awareness of TFA and the work that its alumni are doing in different sectors.  I was able to sit in on a recruiting call and was inspired both by the recruited student’s enthusiasm and by the recruiter’s zeal.  It was amazing to hear from a student who was really passionate about civic engagement and education and was being introduced to TFA for the first time.  It seemed like the perfect organization to match her interests.   

My project for the recruitment team was only one of Brown, Christian 2many experiences that made my time at Teach for America headquarters rewarding.  The energy of the employees and the work environment were other major factors.  Members of the TFA headquarters team are enthusiastic and passionate about their work.  Although the office is sufficiently hectic, team members work together to support one another and create a low-stress environment.  In addition, the office is organized around open spaces for collaboration, but also includes many spaces that were described as “places to hide.” Among these places to hide were phone booths and conference rooms named for TFA regions nationwide.  These rooms serve as a daily reminder of the mission that underlies the work done in TFA headquarters.  Although staff at headquarters may be removed from the classroom, they still share a passion for students and educational outcomes.  Every day of my internship I had the pleasure of listening to team members talk about why they were passionate about education and the work that TFA does. 

Brown, ChristianNot surprisingly, there is an extensive network of Princeton alumni at TFA headquarters and they work in a wide range of departments including GDP (growth, development, and partnerships), recruitment, finance, and tech.  I even learned for the first time about an expansion of Teach for America called Teach for All.  This branch of the organization helps other entrepreneurs develop models similar to TFA in their respective countries.  Finally, I was impressed by the unassuming plaque denoting the office of founder Wendy Kopp ‘89.  It resembled a chalkboard with her name written simply in white.  I enjoyed connecting with these alumni, especially our official host, Alex Krupp ’10, who was a member of Shere Khan A Capella, Ivy Club, and the student committee that helped re-open Campus Club.  Alex was eager to share her experiences and learn more about current events in the Orange Bubble. 

Overall I had an amazing experience at Headquarters.  Not only was I able to learn about myriad aspects of the organization, but I was also able to make meaningful connections with Princeton alumni and other team members.  I would like to thank Princeton alums Alex Krupp and Sylvia Monreal for organizing my visit and giving me the opportunity to contribute to their organization.  I highly recommend this Princeternship to all Princeton students.

Jalisha Braxton ’16, Teach for America

Jalisha-BraxtonIt is difficult to attend Princeton and be involved in the education reform movement on campus without hearing about Teach For America, the nonprofit organization founded by Princeton alumnus Wendy Kopp. Being a freshman, I was less versed than most other students on the intricacies of the Teach For America organization, but my Princeternship at the Teach For America Headquarters in NYC helped expose me to all of the organization’s educational endeavors.

My first day at Teach For America was phenomenal: after waking up early to catch the train from Princeton to NYC, I and another Princeton intern were graciously welcomed to TFA Headquarters by various employees, including many Princeton alumni like Sumin Lee ’09, and Alex Krupp ’10, our Princeternship host. After we received our warm welcome, a tour of the facility commenced, and we were allowed to freely explore the SaschaSuminJalishadifferent departments of the organization, ranging from recruitment and marketing to technology and growth and development. The rest of the first day focused around getting to know more about Teach For America as an influential organization. My fellow Princetern and I were encouraged to tailor our experience towards our own personal interests, and were permitted to speak with individuals from various fields and backgrounds who were devoting their lives to improving education. It was really great to see that the organization, though divided into so many diverse departments, could still successfully unify them all under the common goal of closing the achievement gap.

The final two days of the Princeternship were centered around a recruitment project developed for the other Princetern and I: we complied a list of 10 influential Princeton alumni who participated in the TFA Corps Program, created a survey that could be sent to those alumni to obtain stories about their experiences in TFA, and drafted an email that would encourage the Princeton alumni to complete our survey. The purpose of our project was to gather information from alumni that would CompanyCoreValuesencourage current Princeton undergrads to apply to the TFA Corps program. I really felt like the work I did as an intern at TFA was beneficial to the employees of the organization, specifically Joe Picini and Michaela Grosso, two amazing members of the Recruitment Team who work endlessly to encourage students in New Jersey to join the corps. Their appreciation helped make this Princeternship experience unforgettable, and so I would like to thank them, in addition to Alex, Sumin, Sylvia Monreal, and everyone else at Teach For America for this wonderful opportunity.

Overall, I would say the greatest thing I learned from my Princeternship experience is that everyone, no matter their interest or major, can contribute to the education reform movement. Through my Princeternship, I have also gained an invigorating desire to continue working in the field of education, and hope that my work will inspire others to do the same.

Imani Oliver ’14, Brooklyn Latin School

Imani-OliverJanuary 7, 2013 was my first day interning at The Brooklyn Latin School in Bushwick. I’d prepared for my visit by reviewing all of the statistics on the school, the school’s mission statement, and some of the great work students were doing at TBLS. I walked into the building at 8 am, which is shared with an elementary school located on the lower levels, climbed the stairs to the high school and was met by Jason Griffiths ’97. From there I was led to the main office, within which his personal office was located. After talking briefly about my interests and initial questions about TBLS, we jumped straight into meetings. From 9:30 am to noon, there were 3 separate meetings.  The first was with a teacher in the form of a discussion over a rubric that the teachers used to self evaluate and to improve upon their personal success in the classroom as teachers. This particular teacher was a Grade Level Leader, which is a teacher who is chosen to represent and follow the progress of particular grades. Exercises like these are important to the operation of TBLS, as they function heavily on self-evaluation as well as staff support. This was mirrored in the other meetings we had with the college counselors and other teachers who reflected on their significant day-to-day experiences since their last meetings with the principal. These are often called Leadership Check-ins. The system of checks and balances was also very important in the operating system of the school.

Over lunch, Jason and another principal from a nearby school briefed me on just how difficult the job is, but equally how rewarding it is. The other principal and Jason had gone through the New Leaders program, which is comparable to Teach for America, but for principals. It had a great impact on their preparation and placed them in the right place to handle whatever stresses accompanied the job. Interestingly enough however, they both noted that being an athlete in college, as am I, is also a great precursor to handling the stresses of such a job. The encouragement there was enormous and I enjoyed almost being able to see into the future where I could really help to impact my community in a great way just like those men.

The many meetings of the morning were a great way to start the visit because it prepared me for the types of questions I should have been asking. Before starting the internship, when Jason asked what my specific interests in education were, I immediately thought education policy. I was sure that I want to go to law school and affect the education community from that end in my hometown of Brooklyn. I thought that following a principal at an outstanding school in Brooklyn would be a great way to get insight on how to approach the field. What this trip did for me however was broaden my interests to consider the student experience as well as teacher responsibility in my ideas of what education policy really is. In my junior independent work, I’ve studied the importance of recognizing racial ethnicities. Over lunch I asked the importance of race in the school as well as in the classroom. After telling me that the recognition wasn’t as important, Jason set up a meeting with a visiting principal named Sylvain who was currently in the New Leaders program and doing his ‘residency’ at TBLS. At the end of the school day, Sylvain and I had a very long conversation about the importance of race as dependent on the student body. Sylvain and I are both Jamaican, and we discussed the importance of recognizing culture explicitly within student activities and faculty choices in some of the schools in the Bronx where he’d worked before. It changes per caliber and per location of the school, which I found very interesting to the topic of education reform. The lack of attention to this disparity is apparent in current NYC education policies.

 The next two days went by quickly and were jam-packed with meetings, classroom visits and one-on-one discussions with faculty and students. Oliver 10After each activity, I’d debrief with Jason, and learn even more about things I’d never even considered. TBLS’s curriculum is based off of the International Baccalaureate degree, one of the most prestigious programs in the world for education. Students at TBLS are pushed at a standard that very few other public schools in the city hold students to. I went to classes on the second day and students were hard at work in every one of them. They were used to visitors, so their performance in my presence may have been even more impressive, but it was surely not unnatural for them. There is a special teaching style at the school, where students are the teachers themselves, and teachers encourage the students to encounter the material for themselves and are only there to guide students on the correct paths for the difficult IB exams for each class. IBs are so advanced that preparation for those tests are more than enough for some SAT IIs and state tests. I even got to attend an ‘advisory group,’ which meets every Tuesday to debrief in a small group and to work on the social and mental development of the students. All students have an advisory group with which they matriculated throughout their four years. I attended one for transfer students and I got to tell them how lucky they were to have advisories, since I had nothing like them when I transferred into my high school.

On day three I got to sit in on more classes and speak with teachers about what drives them to teach and how they approach each class as another opportunity to develop their students on several levels. I then got to speak with the school secretary, Chelsea, on the inner workings of the school. The smaller size of the school was definitely an advantage, but wouldn’t stay the same if the school were looking to continue expansion. However, I learned that there is so much to consider with all of the students, and that they can use all the support they can get, especially from personable people like Chelsea. The faculty was extremely receptive to me, especially teachers that allowed me to walk in and out of their classrooms during classes. Finally, towards the end of my last day, Jason and Chelsea helped to gather some students who had similar extracurricular interests, life experiences or even school experiences as me, and I got the chance to personally encourage students to continue their hard work, although it may seem fruitless at times, and enjoy what they are doing. I answered many of their questions and bonded with them for the short time we got to speak. That was the best part of the entire experience for me, and I really enjoyed connecting with the students, the basis of all my interests, on that level.

Oliver 8In the end, I’d learned so much about Jason Griffith’s work that I never would’ve known without the Princeternship experience. I wouldn’t have known how tough it was to start a school from bottom up and have it compete at the level of other specialized high schools in NYC, and even its mother school, The Boston Latin School. I wouldn’t have known how tough it is to deal with building issues and to try to expand the student body without having the real estate to do so (only in New York!). I wouldn’t have known how important it was to determine a strict culture for the school, to enforce it, and to watch young minds flourish because they ascribed to such a strict formal culture. I’ve learned a great deal over my time there.

Francois Jean Charpentier ’15, Landon School

Francois-CharpenierLast January during Intercession, I had the chance to intern three days at Landon School for Boys, a school from grade 3 to grade 12 next to DC in Bethesda, MD. The headmaster of the school, David Armstrong, a Princeton alumni, class of 1970, generously offered me this wonderful opportunity to learn about the organization of a small but excellent private school.

As an engineering major, I decided to focus more on the study of the administrative side of the school rather than the education part. For any career it is useful to know how an administration works, how all of the moving parts fit together and more importantly how to lead teams and how to use leadership. Landon gave me a particularly good insight on those themes.  Since it is a small organization, I had the chance to speak with most of the key administrators of the school, thanks to Mr. Armstrong’s assistant, Patti Pfeiff, who organized my days at Landon. Patti gave me a tour of Landon, showing me their beautiful campus and sharing with me the Landon spirit and how much the school does for the boys, who in turn consider Landon as their second home.

On my first day at Landon, after the campus tour, I met with the CFO of Landon, Jeremy Kugel, and attended a budget meeting with the head of the IT department. I learned about making a budget and the different kinds of funds that can be used for long term projects versus everyday expenses. That day I also met with the head of college counseling, Jamie Kirkpatrick, who in addition to talking to me about actual college counseling was the first to talk to me about the different kinds of leaderships. As a member of the Landon staff, Mr. Kirkpatrick has to report to the headmaster, but there are different ways that a headmaster, or any other leader, can exert his leadership, with types of leaders ranging from a micromanager who directly controls every project of every member under him in the hierarchy of the organization to a manager who lets the key members of the organization be independent, both ends of the spectrum having its advantages and drawbacks. I later met with Marcos Williams, the Director of Center for Teaching and Learning who has been at Landon for many years, as many people there have, because Landon creates an amazing sense of community and family. Mr. Williams talked to me about the social aspect of being a leader and how important it is to know, respect and understand the people we supervise as a leader. This was confirmed by David Holm, the Director of Athletics, who told me that when he arrived at Landon he was younger than many people he had to supervise and as a result, had to be humble and really get to know everybody and how everything worked before deciding to make any changes to the general organization.

On my second day at Landon, I spent most of my day with the fundraising department of the school. Landon is a nonprofit organization and there are fundraising projects and events running in order to allow the school to continue to offer the best for the boys. I asked everybody I met about the different kind of leaderships. Everybody agreed that Mr. Armstrong gives people independence, allowing them to make their own decisions, but at the same time, people I met all told me that he deeply cares about the school. Mr. Armstrong knows every boy (almost 600 of them!) and every staff member by name and despite the fact that he lets people be independent, he still takes the important decisions about the administration of the school.

On my third day, I went with Mr. Armstrong Charpentier 3to two important meetings, the first one being a board meeting (the board of trustees), during which I learned more about establishing a budget and setting goals for the school. Unlike a company whose main goal would be to make a profit, Landon´s goal is to provide the best learning environment for the boys. I then went to a calendar meeting, during which the key administrators of the school met to talk about the upcoming events of the school to make sure there is no conflict.

At the end of this Princeternship I had learned very valuable information about administration, especially in terms of financing and leadership styles and I now feel more ready to work in teams and to use leadership. Landon school was a really great place to visit, and Mr. Armstrong and his assistant, Patti Pfeiff, as well as the entire Landon community very generously welcomed me. I would definitely recommend the Princeternship experience to anyone.