Hella-awesome Educators

Revitalizing Oakland Education for Students

“My favorite part is getting people to take up the mantle of leadership and take responsibility for young people.”

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

I grew up in Richmond and had family there and in Oakland; this area has always been home for me. I went to Morehouse in Atlanta and then to South Carolina for a few years, but I decided to come back home and try to make a difference.

 What is your connection to Oakland Education?

How would you describe your role in the community?


I serve Oakland education by developing leadership within the schools and in the community. I serve as the Executive Director for New Leaders in the Bay Area, Commission Chair for OABE (Oakland Alliance of Black Educators), and on the NAACP’s Education Committee. In each role, I keep the focus on being a straight-shooting, clear-minded, advocate for kids.

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…we need people who can lead us into insecure places and bring us safely to the other side.

What are your favorite aspects of your job? 

I love challenging people and organizations to get out of their comfort zones. Everybody talks about wanting change, but few have the appetite for it. I read a book called ‘Change or Die’ which told how heart patients usually went back to their unhealthy lifestyle even though they knew it would kill them. They knew better, but they just couldn’t change. I look at school the same way, it is in our nature to resist change; we need people who can lead us into insecure places and bring us safely to the other side. My favorite part is getting people to take up the mantle of leadership and take responsibility for young people.

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.

 

During my first year of teaching, I ‘negotiated’ with some young men to keep my students safe. Rather than recruit and pressure my students to a life in the streets, they agreed to leave them alone. The promises were kept. And while life hasn’t been easy for those former 5th graders, they are alive – and now in their 30’s.

Being the principal of Lazear Elementary allowed me to support a school community. The staff and parents had decided they were open to change, and worked tirelessly to improve the school. Student achievement shot up, and it became a place where kids and adults could learn and grow.

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 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.

What do you like to do in your free time?

What free time?

 

Kareem’s passion for providing students and families with high quality educational experiences has driven his success as a leader in Oakland. His teaching, school leadership, and district partner leadership have all been informed by these values. Currently, he works to partner with us to make sure all students have a high quality principal leading their schools. His dedication to making it work on behalf of Oakland students has allowed us to build more effective school leadership pipelines.

Aaron Townsend

Deputy Chief, Talent Management, Oakland Unified School District

Deciding what you want to be is important, but deciding what kind of person you want to be is much more important.

 

What is your best advice to young people?

 

Don’t be so open-minded that the common sense falls out your head.

Big dreams need tight habits to become reality.

Never make anger or grief your most prized possession.

Never confuse being broke and being poor.

Choose your own heroes and goals… and choose wisely.

Choose people who see more in you than you see in yourself.

You are the one most responsible for your life. Own it.

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

Commit to mastering the art of questioning. Students must develop skills to examine and evaluate the world around them: technological and media, institutional, financial, moral, political, environmental, communal and relational.

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

Each school would have good, highly-trained leadership that helps create conditions and systems for teachers and students to thrive.

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

The delivery systems of education, within Oakland, would be diverse and much less important than the outcomes produced.

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

Sports and Arts: Reimagine OAL, extend it K-12, Partner with local Sports Foundations, Parks and Rec, and Non-Profits.

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

Use assessments as the beginning of instruction, not just the end. Teachers must see and understand the road map to proficiency.

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

Every adult teaches reading; every child learns a second language.

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

Delivery systems (schools) split operational from instructional responsibility.

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

Personalized learning, leveraging people and technology, begins in first grade.

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

Tie educator salaries to a 5-year index of county home prices.

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

Longer school day, and more of them.

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

Real-time portal for parents showing academic and social information (along with community resources). Enrollment team supports and monitors, community groups help identify need for the types of information and supports with training.

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

Creating gaming conditions for kids to learn from their mistakes.

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

Common Enrollment and partnering with city. “Not choosing” a school for your child sets off a tight web of social alarms.

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

Principal and teacher training programs report the student achievement results of their trainees.

60 Seconds with Kareem Weaver

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