Who I Coach: Mariah Landers

BA, Sociology
MSW, Community Organizing Planning and Administration
MEd,  Educational Leadership


I was always in the lowest track in elementary school, and I never felt smart. In ninth grade, I worked hard to do well and had friendly competition with friends and our grades. In eleventh grade my chemistry teacher got on his knees in front of me and literally begged me to understand. The message I learned in that moment was that I was not supposed to ask questions and I could not show that I was confused. I stopped learning chemistry and stopped being curious about things. The impression in my mind was that I was dumb and that it was on me to figure things out, not on the teacher to alter what he was doing so I could learn.

It is this experience of how not to teach that motivated me to get into education and make a difference. I have kept this incident firmly in mind during my teaching roles as a middle school humanities teacher in New Orleans with TFA and then in Oakland with Aspire. Also at Aspire––as a New Leaders Fellow, a founding principal, and the superintendent for the Bay Area––it is always the young people and their families that have inspired my work in education and in school leadership.

Currently, I am working on starting up a school leadership development program in Washington DC. What really fills my cup is being in schools on learning walks, school inspections, and rounds, and working to figure out how to strengthen practice and coaching principals for the school leaders in their work around instructional and adult leadership.

I am driven by my passion for justice in our country and how we can make individual contributions to change in our local context. I believe we each have a critical role to play, and that anything is possible in Oakland––a city full of innovation and creativity. There is so much good and there are many opportunities to problem solve. Oakland’s young people are the ones who get to do that work going forward and I am so excited that there are folks who want to support that charge.