30 Under 30: Caryn Voskuil

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This January, one of Rocketship’s own, Caryn Voskuil, was honored in Forbes Magazine’s 30 Under 30: Education list. This is the third annual 30 Under 30, a tally of the brightest stars in 15 different fields under the age of 30. The list is said to be comprised of “Today’s disruptors and tomorrow’s brightest stars in education.” Caryn is a member of our Network Support Staff, and she wrote a reflection on her experience. 

To date, 2014 has been very exciting for me, mostly because I have never had more opportunities to celebrate the work everyone at Rocketship is doing together, or explain to so many people what makes our organization such a special place to work. Becoming a Rocketeer has been a defining life experience for me, and one that constantly motivates me to improve.

A personal habit I maintain is to keep a sticky note open on my desktop with quotes that inspire me.  This is a lightweight way to remind me to stay focused and keep pressing forward towards my goals. I change the quotes all the time, but right now I have three quotes on my sticky note and I wanted to share them with you in case you also find them relevant or inspiring to our work.

The first:  “There is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, than to take a lead in the introduction of a new order of things, because the innovation has for enemies all those who have done well under the old conditions and lukewarm defenders in those who may do well under the new.” –Niccolo Machiavelli, The Prince.

This quote embodies for me what rethinking elementary school is all about. The old system of schooling is comfortable, and seemingly served students’ needs in ways that many have grown accustomed to, yet we know there is space for innovation, even if the victories are small and uncertain at first.

At Rocketship, innovation is in our DNA. It is the reason so many, including Forbes, have taken an interest in our work. I believe we are leaders in designing a school experience that unleashes student potential, even though maintaining this leadership is hard and breaks with tradition. Rocketship is forging ahead in the “new order of things” and this enables us to work alongside others who want to push what is possible.

The second quote is simply, “Disruption is Disruptive.” This reminds me that change is strenuous, whether it is redesigning our classrooms, or adding an online learning program to our student portal, it is likely to be a painful and uncomfortable process! I think accepting this truth is the first key to making progress. In our work, I like to try and anticipate what the biggest issues are going to be so that we are ready to face them, and not afraid of them. What I admire most about our culture is that we do not shy away from trying something bold in order to realize greater student successes.

The last quote I’d like to share is, “Character development is the great, if not the sole, aim of education.”William O’Shea. We at Rocketship place an extremely high emphasis on personal responsibility, and I like working at a place that challenges my own character development. I believe one of the next steps in optimizing our school model is with thoughtful integration of non-cognitive skills. Technology, performance metrics, and data analysis are vast and powerful tools that we utilize fully to view the progression of our students, but I find this quote helps me stay grounded on the mission at hand. We have so many goals for our Rocketeers to achieve, with the end goal of developing them to be middle school ready. I keep this quote on my computer to remind me to keep seeking ways to realize this ultimate initiative across our schools.

I have been incredibly honored to be part of the list of individuals recognized by Forbes for contributing to the future of education, but I truly believe this recognition is for all of us Rocketeers.  So much has changed since I joined in 2012, and it’s the potential that we are yet to realize that keeps me so excited every day.

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Caryn Voskuil is Rocketship’s Manager of School Model Innovation, based out of our Network Support office in Redwood City, CA.  She grew up in Green Bay, WI and received her BA in Journalism and Political Science from University of Wisconsin-Madison.  Caryn taught 6th and 7th grades in Washington DC before joining our team.  Outside of work, she enjoys running, skiing, exploring the west coast and vegan cooking.

Follow Caryn on Twitter: @CarynVoskuil

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