HEROES Profile- Zuri Collins

Hella-awesome Educators

Revitalizing Oakland Education for Students

Our second in Educate78’s series to highlight the work of SEEDS of Learning.

SEEDS of Learning is a proven professional development program that provides teachers with strategies to building social emotional, language and literacy skills in young children.

Gloria Lee spent an evening learning about their work and speaking with teachers. Stay tuned to Educate78 to meet these Oakland HEROES.

A group of SEEDS PreK teachers met recently after work to see how well their students are doing and to share ideas on how to improve their results. The focus of this training of preschool teachers from around the city, particularly from West Oakland, was learning how to use student data to plan how they will help individual students in specific ways. The teachers dug into this technically challenging work with gusto.

First, they reviewed data of how students progressed from fall to winter on a range of assessments – including letter naming, letter sounds, rhyming, and vocabulary – that research indicates are strong predictors of literacy readiness for kindergarten.

All students were shown as on or above target, near target, and far from target. The students who are far from target are not on track to be ready for kindergarten. Kate Horst, instructor and founder of SEEDS of Early Literacy, emphasized that the students who are behind will likely stay behind if they enter kindergarten unprepared.  She also celebrated the big growth children had made so early in the year. After reviewing the data, Horst prompted teachers to identify best practices, noted below, for moving scores into the green (on or above target) and out of the red (far from target).

What did you do that moved children to have so much more language and vocabulary?

  • We repeated reading alouds with the same book each of the weeks and made our themes reflect the new vocabulary.
  • We made sure that we gave children time to think and respond to our questions.
  • I gave children descriptive affirmations and encouraged them to talk more.
  • I did fun songs every day.

How can we support children who are far below target?

  • I need to spend more time having conversations with the children who are far behind so they can practice using vocabulary.
  • The children low on letter sounds transitioned into the classroom late so they missed the beginning of the year work we did. We can use time each day to work with them to catch them up.
  • I can sing a rhyming song with them each day on the way outside.
  • I can make sure I spend time with her during free choice time listening to her ideas and encouraging her to talk.

The educators at the Y are particularly inspiring. They know every child will succeed if given the opportunity and they are willing to try new strategies, support each other and hold each other accountable to giving kids daily evidenced based experiences to help children become joyful, respected and capable learners. They believe in and love their young students and their students have shown big gains!

Susan True

Kenneth Rainin Foundation

60 Seconds with Zuri Collins

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HEROES Profile- Jacqueline Brown

Hella-awesome Educators

Revitalizing Oakland Education for Students

Over the next few weeks, Educate78 will highlight the work of SEEDS of Learning.

SEEDS of Learning is a proven professional development program that provides teachers with strategies to building social emotional, language and literacy skills in young children.

Gloria Lee spent an evening learning about their work and speaking with teachers. Stay tuned to Educate78 to meet these Oakland HEROES.

A group of Oakland PreKindergarten (PreK) teachers is closing the opportunity gap for 3 and 4 year olds. Read alouds, meaningful transitions, extended conversations and opportunities for writing are giving children the boost they need to be kinder ready. This work is critical to ensuring that their children are reading on grade level by third grade – a key predictor of school success, high school graduation and future success in life.

Oakland PreK and Transitional Kindergarten (TK) teachers are working to improve their students’ literacy with the help of SEEDS of Early Literacy, an initiative of the Kenneth Rainin Foundation. Sherry Burrell, director of the YMCA 21st St Preschool, expressed her enthusiasm for the initiative.  “All the classrooms are offering richer opportunities for our children because the learning and materials from SEEDS have really given us a boost. Our team is learning new ways to build literacy skills, and also to create more fun and engaging schedules that are sensitive and encouraging to children,” said Burrell.

The educators at the Y are particularly inspiring. They know every child will succeed if given the opportunity and they are willing to try new strategies, support each other and hold each other accountable to giving kids daily evidenced based experiences to help children become joyful, respected and capable learners. They believe in and love their young students and their students have shown big gains!

Susan True

Kenneth Rainin Foundation

60 Seconds with Jaqueline Brown

Know any Oakland HEROES?

If you know of any HEROES in your school community to feature, let us know!

Contact us!

HEROES Profile- David Silver

Hella-awesome Educators

Revitalizing Oakland Education for Students

“…I have never been more optimistic than today. We have…a powerful vision of educational equity, and models of successful schools. This is our time.”

David Silver

Director of Education, City of Oakland

Did you grow up in Oakland? If not, what brought you to Oakland?

I grew up in Ann Harbor, MI, went to UCLA, and taught in Compton through Teach for America. I moved up to Oakland to be in a diverse, progressive area where I could work with students, families and community members to make it better.

 What is your connection to Oakland Education? How would you describe your role in the community?

I have been involved in Oakland education in a variety of roles since 1997. My personal goal is to do everything in my power to eradicate education inequity and to empower more students to be the first in their family to graduate from college. I’ve built a career around this mission through service in the following roles: bilingual teacher at Hawthorne Elementary School, assistant principal at Lockwood Elementary, founding principal at Think College Now, Program and School Director at Teach for America, CEO of College Track and now Director of Education for Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf. These roles have helped me increase impact and break down educational equity.

What are your favorite aspects of your job? 

As Director of Education for the Mayor, I have the opportunity to work in partnership with students, families, educators, partners, the city, OUSD, and Mayor Schaaf to realize a vision of educational equity for all students in Oakland. With the collaboration of these key stakeholders, I am able leverage the work that has already been done and align it to our shared vision of creating a true continuum of excellence from pre-K through K-12 and beyond –ensuring that every child in Oakland graduates high school with the expectations, resources and skills to complete college and be successful in the career of their choice.

Share one or two highlights from your career, in which you made an impact.

Before becoming the Director of Education for the Mayor in Oakland, I served as the Chief Executive Officer of College Track, a national non-profit whose mission is to empower students from underserved communities to graduate from college. During my tenure, I led the organization through significant growth – from serving 900 students to more than 2000 including expansion to Colorado, Sacramento and Los Angeles; more than doubling the staff size from 30 to 85 employees; and increasing the annual budget from $4.5 to $15 million. Most importantly, quality increased as College Track scaled; four-year college acceptance and matriculation (94% and 89% respectively) are the highest in the organization’s history, and the college graduation rate is more than 2.5 times the national average for students in low-income communities.

Prior to College Track, I created Think College Now (TCN), a college-focused elementary school in Oakland Unified School District, in collaboration with a group of committed parents, students, educators and community members. TCN’s mission is to ensure all students have an opportunity to graduate from college and pursue their dreams. From 2003-2011, I served as founding principal and, during my tenure, the school received several honors including becoming the first California Distinguished School in the Fruitvale neighborhood. TCN’s Academic Performance Index rose from 585 to 849 and went from 10% and 23% of students at grade-level proficiency to 60% and 80% in reading and math respectively. Finally, I am proud to say that 31 of our original 39 second graders are now in college.

 What from your background do you believe led you to do what you do now?

When I was younger, I played basketball with kids from a variety of backgrounds. In high school and college, I was involved in organizations that brought together people from diverse backgrounds. During the Rodney King riots, I was motivated to explore the underlying causes of racism and poverty. This led me to join Teach for America (TFA), serving as a second grade teacher and basketball coach in Compton, California. My experiences with kids and families during my time in TFA still drive me today.

What motivates you?

Reflecting on some of the students that I had that were brilliant but never went to college motivates me to make sure that their children will have the opportunities they deserve.

What is your best advice to young people?

You can fail but don’t quit. Life is not a straight line and has a lot of ups and downs. Remember who you are, what you value, what motivates you, and the importance of reaching out to people for support during tough times.

What do you like to do in your free time?

I like to dance, bring people together, go to baseball games with my three year old son, play basketball, and hang out late night at IHOP.

What do you love most about Oakland?

I am continually impressed with the diversity and commitment to equity in the wonderful city I am proud to call home. I have worked in education in Oakland since 1997 and I have never been more optimistic than today. We have incredible students, dedicated teachers and principals, committed families and community partners, as well as a mayor, superintendent, and School Board with a powerful vision of educational equity, and models of successful schools. This is our time.

 

 If you were to reimagine public education in Oakland, what would that vision look like?

Every child from birth would have the expectation and resources to graduate from college and be successful in his or her career. First generation college students would know how to navigate the system, be academically ready for college success, and financial concerns would never be a barrier.

60 Seconds with David Silver

 

Know any Oakland HEROES?

If you know of any HEROES in your school community to feature, let us know!

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HEROES Profile- Jenna Stauffer & Steve Sexton

Hella-awesome Educators

Revitalizing Oakland Education for Students

“I love our community… I love witnessing children growing up and discovering their passions.”

Jenna Stauffer

Co-Founder and Director of Strategic Development, Lighthouse Community Charter School

“I knew from a young age that there was an inequity in this world and it came in the form of color and class.”

Steve Sexton

Co-Founder, Lighthouse Community Charter School

Did you grow up in Oakland? If not, what brought you to Oakland?

Steve: I grew up as an Air Force brat, so I never lived in one place too long.  What brought me to Oakland was the opportunity to make positive change.

 

 

Jenna: I grew up in northwest Indiana among cornfields and woodland tracts.  I came to Oakland in 2000 because it was ripe for change.  The educational landscape was going to explode in order to better serve kids.  We needed to be a part of that and had a vision for it.

 What is your connection to Oakland Education?

How would you describe your role in the community?

Jenna:  With Steve and others, we founded Lighthouse Community Charter Public Schools. Lighthouse opened doors to 92 kids in 2002. Today, we serve 750 kids in a K–12 school that also dabbles in services to 0-5 year olds, as well as alumni support. Now, we are embarking on starting a second K–12 school, Lodestar, which will open in Fall of 2016. Fifteen years in service to our Oakland community, I am deeply rooted here. I am mother to 3 kids. Ruby, our 10 year old, attends Lighthouse and my twin boys will attend a Lighthouse school next year (and now my difficult choice is…which one?!)

 

 

Steve: The last 15 years has been committed to the Oakland Community. Four of us decided to start a charter school and three of us are still here and the fourth is still in education in Oakland.

What are your favorite aspects of your job? 

Steve: My favorite aspect of my job is watching people grow because I have unique job of seeing  my students throughout their K-12 experience. That boils down to relationships- relationships throughout my community.

Jenna:  I absolutely love my job and I can’t just pick one thing. I love our community. It’s really something special to have 1000 people under roof all united around the same thing. I love witnessing children growing up and discovering their passions. I love our families and their dedication to their kids. I really love turning someone outside of education onto Lighthouse. Some people don’t believe what we do is possible. And then I tour them around the school and they see with their own eyes how our city can be for all kids.

Share one or two highlights from your career, in which you believe you made an impact.

Steve: Everyone has a story about the high achiever, so I won’t bother you with that. A story I will tell is about a student who was Learning disabled. His teachers tried to serve them the best they could but you can tell that he was really frustrated. But when he  got to 10th grade he found his passion, his passion was art. Art  inspired to him and was the one thing that he really loved. Now he has his diploma and a job.

Jenna: This one is sad, but speaks to the power of relationships.  My first year of teaching in Watts, I was able to connect and gain the trust of a tough 7th grade girl, S, who had been neglected by her teachers in years past.  She barely trusted anyone and was angry at everyone.  Slowly over time, she realized her leadership potential in my science class and we grew very close. One day I received a call from her sister that their mother had been killed in a drug deal and big sister wanted me to be the one to tell S what had happened.  With a broken heart, I did what I was asked and supported my dear S through months of grieving and challenge.

 What from your background do you believe led you to do what you do now?

Steve: Being an air force brat because I got to see a lot of education systems, some really good and some horrendous. I knew from a young age that there was an inequity in this world and it came in the form of color and class. If I had a better school it was usually white and when I had a high poverty school I usually had bad instruction and teachers who had already given up on their students.

Jenna:  As a child, I spent a great deal of time alone in nature. I developed a passion to protect those wild places.  I got my degree in wildlife ecology, but realized it wasn’t the wildlife that needed studying.  It was the people impacting the ecosystem that needed to study.  Through my college education, I learned about and witnessed environmental racism.  Put that in the mixing bowl and I knew my path was going to be education.

 

What motivates you?

Steve:  I have a most fulfilling and a purpose driven life- what more could I want?

Jenna:   Love.  To bring more love into the world in any way that I can.  I believe loving one another and loving those who feel most unloved is doing the work of God.

What do you love most about Oakland?

Steve: You can get anything here but it still feels like a small town.

Jenna:  I’m with Steve.

 

What do you like to do in your free time?

Steve: I’ll enumerate them.

  1. Spending time with my family.
  2. Spending time with my wife.
  3. Watching college football especially my Utah Utes.
  4. Getting into nature.
  5. And finally, laughing.

Jenna:  Free time?

 

I’ve had the privilege of working in many great schools, but none with a better culture than Lighthouse. Their generosity and kindness is like reflected light on the faces of their students.

When my daughter visited the school, on the way out she told me, “Those kids really want me to come to school here… I think they all really like each other.”

I don’t think this is an accident!

Ken Berrick

President and CEO, Seneca Family of Agencies

What is your best advice to young people?

Steve:  Find your passion and vigorously pursue it; while at the same time becoming an expert at something.

Jenna:  No one can stop you from achieving your deepest dreams.  Do or do not.  There is no try.  (Thank you, Yoda.)

If you were to reimagine public education in Oakland, what would that vision look like?

Steve: Well, I can’t reimagine education in Oakland because these times of change are happening really rapidly. So, I  am giving up trying to predict the future. What I would like to reimagine is the quality school for every kid.

Jenna:  Every child, starting from when they are born, are provided a loving place to go to school.  Schools would cater to the truly diverse learning needs of all of our students.  Teachers would be our city’s most lauded heroes.  The achievement gap would disappear and education would be transforming lives every day.

 

60 Seconds with Jenna Stauffer & Steve Sexton

 

Know any Oakland HEROES?

If you know of any HEROES in your school community to feature, let us know!

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HEROES Profile- David Ramirez

Hella-awesome Educators

Revitalizing Oakland Education for Students

 

“As a teacher, my students’ passion and enthusiasm to learn pushes me…”

 

 

Did you grow up in Oakland? If not, what brought you to Oakland?

I am originally from San Diego, California.  I came to the Bay Area to attend Dominican University of California where I majored in Molecular Cell Biology.  My desire was to become a doctor but decided I needed a break from school and wanted to pursue my passion for teaching. I applied to Teach For America and was placed in Oakland.

 

 

———–

 

 What is your connection to Oakland Education?

How would you describe your role in the community?


I am a very active member of the Urban Promise Academy community. I hold many roles such as a member of the leadership team, developing curriculum for our social and emotional learning crew classes, union rep, LGBTQ advisor, and director of Aim High.

 

What are your favorite aspects of your job? 

I love working with students! Every day is a new challenge. This job keeps me on my toes and there is never a dull moment.  I am very enthusiastic about math and science so I am excited to share my love of these two subjects everyday!

What do you like to do in your free time?

After teaching, I also teach at 24 Hour Fitness so the gym is my third home. I do love to read and take naps whenever possible. Also, any time I can visit Disneyland, I’m there!

 What is your best advice to young people?

Stay young and enjoy your years as a young person! Live life to the fullest and pursue a career that interests you!

What from your background do you believe led you to do what you do now?

I do believe majoring in science allowed me to have confidence and knowledge in the subject matters that I teach.

 

 

What do you love most about Oakland?

Stay young and enjoy your years as a young person! Live life to the fullest and pursue a career that interests you!

 

 

 

What motivates you?

My motivation is the feeling of accomplishment. As a teacher, my students’ passion and enthusiasm to learn pushes me to provide them with rigorous yet differentiated lessons.

David is the kind of teacher kids love, respect, and remember. He connects with students in deep way and meets their needs. He is awesome at pushing his kids to their highest potential and helping them grow. As a teacher leader, he like the energizer bunny. It’s awesome to see him do his thing- Ramirez rocks!

Claire Fisher

Principal, Urban Promise Academy

If you were to reimagine public education in Oakland,what would that vision look like?

I would reimagine education in Oakland to be one that prepares our students for the future in different ways.

If you were to reimagine public education in Oakland,what would that vision look like?

Students are learning at their own pace.

If you were to reimagine public education in Oakland,what would that vision look like?

Individualized Learning

If you were to reimagine public education in Oakland,what would that vision look like?

Able to self-monitor their progress in all subject areas.

If you were to reimagine public education in Oakland,what would that vision look like?

1:1 Student to Computer Ratio

If you were to reimagine public education in Oakland,what would that vision look like?

All students are provided with computer and internet at home.

If you were to reimagine public education in Oakland,what would that vision look like?

Students are progressing to material they are ready for versus just grade level. For example, a student is in 8th grade but is ready to learn Geometry.

 

60 Seconds with David Ramirez

 

Know any Oakland HEROES?

If you know of any HEROES in your school community to feature, let us know!

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HEROES Profile- Johanna Paraiso

Hella-awesome Educators

Revitalizing Oakland Education for Students

 “The desire to help create a more equitable society is huge for me. It is [my] fuel…”

Did you grow up in Oakland? If not, what brought you to Oakland?

I grew up in Los Angeles and came to the Bay to attend Cal. I never left. In terms of the diversity and love for culture, Oakland feels much like the home I left in southern California. It is the kids of Oakland that make me want to stay indefinitely.

 What are your favorite aspects of your job? 

The expressions on my students’ faces when they have mastered a skill and are able to teach it to somebody else.

What is your connection to Oakland Education?

How would you describe your role in the community?

I have been teaching high school English in Oakland (currently at Fremont High School) for the last 11 years, trying my best to foster generation after generation of poet revolutionaries. My role as a community member is to help students become civically engaged, digitally savvy, and comfortable as “Literatis”.

Johanna was selected as an OUSD Teacher of the Year for 2015-2016.

Check it out!

Share a highlight from your career, in which you believe you made an impact.

The year that I applied for the National Board certification was the year that I pushed my classroom into “the public eye”. The certification process asked for a ton of video recording of practice which I had not done before. That was in 2008. Ever since then, video taping practice and student learning has become fundamental in my classroom, and in my room there is a culture that our learning is public. This has had tremendous impact on our collective sense of accountability and the pride we take in our work.

…our learning is public. This has had tremendous impact on our collective sense of accountability and the pride we take in our work.

What from your background do you believe led you to do what you do now?

I think that becoming a mom while in college changed the direction of my life path. I had every intention of one day being a photojournalist, but I had two lovely boys in my last two years at Cal and instead went into kids media. The professional experience I gained in technology coupled with the experience I gained with caring for children have both contributed to where I am with my teaching today. I am able to fold both my love for technology and my understanding of child development and teenage behavior into my practice.

 

 

 

What do you love most about Oakland?

I love the revolutionary spirit, the deep history of activism, and of course, the food. Hallelujah.

What is your best advice to young people?

Don’t be afraid of success and high expectations. You are your own best support system.

What do you like to do in your free time?

What free time?

 

 

 

 

What motivates you?

The desire to help create a more equitable society is huge for me. It is the fuel I need during all of the late-night lesson planning I do.

Jo is an amazing teacher leader, parent, and colleague. In addition to being the OUSD 2015 teacher of the year, she is also a mother of four, and a lead teacher on the Fremont redesign team. She is Chair of the English Department, co-lead of the Media academy, and the Data and Technology teacher leader at Fremont. A true lifelong learner, she is also a blended learning master teacher and a TACCL (Teachers advancing Common Core Learning)  Fellow  with UC Berkeley. I am thrilled to be working with Jo to facilitate the redesign at Fremont.

Katherine Carter

Founding Principal, Manzanita SEED

Jo is Hella-Awesome because she is so generous with her time and energy. I remember her opening up her house for an entire Sunday for new teachers to come and chat, have planning meetings, discuss new technology tools, and everything else to do with the school. Of course, the house was packed with food, and everyone was so welcome.

Heejae Lim

Founder & Executive Director, TalkingPoints

If you were to reimagine public education in Oaklandwhat would that vision look like?

We would be the city and school district that put resourcing our students first above anything else.  We would be the model for the rest of the nation for how to do that right when it comes to urban education. It would mean that every school becomes a full-service community school.

60 Seconds with Johanna Paraiso

Know any Oakland HEROES?

If you know of any HEROES in your school community to feature, let us know!

Contact us!