Yesenia was one of those kindergartners who took her job very seriously. She knew she was in school to learn and she lived it everyday. She loved to participate, she was gregarious, and was well liked by the other students in class. She was incredibly smart, but she had to really work to learn to read. She struggled at times, but she continued to try. I’ll never forget the day I sat down with her for a reading assessment and I handed her a book that went beyond the pattern books she’d been reading. She looked at the words on the page and she slowly started to read the sight words she’d memorized. She started to decode the words she didn’t immediately know. She used picture cues to guide her and together we watched her truly read for the first time. Her voice warbled as she realized what she was doing and in that moment, I knew that she’d learned something no one could take away. I’d never felt the real weight of the work that we do quite like that. It was palpable and real.
That was my very first year teaching at Rocketship and the first year of our school, Rocketship Mosaic Elementary. I made the decision to join Rocketship because I was looking for a place where I could work alongside like-minded colleagues, receive coaching and support from my school leaders, and where I could participate in a leadership development program that would prepare me to someday become a school leader. I found all of those things at Rocketship and I was so excited to begin my journey to school leadership.
My interest in school leadership was primarily driven by my desire to expand my impact. I felt lucky to have the opportunity to work with two classes of kindergarten every day. Each time I saw one of my students begin to read right before my eyes, I knew I wanted to do more. I took advantage of the leadership opportunities on campus and quickly realized that while school leadership is an incredible to impact a community, it was not right for me. While this probably wasn’t the intended outcome of my increased exposure to leadership, it was instrumental in my own career and personal growth path.
I started talking to my coach about my interest in working closely with other teachers and my love of systems and logistics. He already knew that I could talk to just about anyone and that I was passionate about the work we were doing at Rocketship. Eventually, we realized that a recently open position on our Teacher Recruitment Team could actually be perfect for me. I didn’t have any formal recruitment experience outside of work I’d done with my sorority in college, but I had most of the skills it would take to recruit excellent teachers to Rocketship. It was thanks to the personal relationship I had with my coach and his attention to my development that I found the perfect place for my interests and talents.
When I started my work as the founding member of our Recruitment Team, my first task was to find someone to take my position at Mosaic for the following year. Bringing high-quality teachers to Rocketship has been one of the most rewarding things I’ve done in my career. Anytime I walk into a strong classroom being led by one of the teachers I brought here, my heart swells with pride. Some came in as first year teachers and benefited from the amazing coaching and development we offer. Others came with incredible experience and talent, helping to shape the direction of our network.
I’ve been able to watch teachers I’ve recruited be promoted to assistant principal and principal. They’ve joined our Network Support team, and one of them even sits right next to me in our national office. Maybe the best part of this job is that I’ve hired some seriously amazing teachers to teach my original group of kindergartners. I’ve been able to drop in and visit. We’ve laughed about their hilarious personalities and celebrated their successes together over the years. I also feel lucky to have the opportunity to engage on broader policies and talent issues that I’m deeply passionate about. Our team digs on hard questions around sustainability and we push for changes that we believe will increase the retention of our teaching force.
My path at Rocketship has looked very different than what I’d initially envisioned. Instead of spending my time walking the halls and coaching teachers, I spend my time trying to bring the very best teachers to Rocketship. I’m reaching out to people who might know amazing teachers and I talk with teachers about the work we’re doing at Rocketship. While it’s not quite what I thought I’d be doing, I’m still very much working toward my ultimate goal of expanding my impact in the communities we serve. And I’ve been able to grow my skills in ways I never imagined. I’ve brought excellent teachers and leaders into these communities and put them in front of our kids. I’ve worked to carve career pathways for our community members to get into the classroom.
Most importantly, I saw my first group of kinders, the ones I got to watch learn how to read, head off to middle school. While I sat at their 5th grade graduation, I got to watch one of their teachers who I recruited stand at the podium and hand them their diplomas. It was wonderful to hear her speak about this same group of kids as tenacious learners and voracious readers. I also thought a lot about Yesenia. She moved a couple years ago, but I know that she’s out there, still working and learning. I really hope that she’s in a school where there is someone else working to bring great teachers to her, just like my team does every single day.
Caitlyn has been with Rocketship for 6 years – beginning as a founding kindergarten teacher at Rocketship Mosaic Elementary, and moving onto the position of founding recruiter. Caitlyn is now the Associate Director of Recruiting.