Rocketship Legacy Prep: What Will Your Legacy Be?

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by Michael Rabin and Erica Toews

Rocketship Legacy Prep Founding Principal and Education Pioneers Fellow

We want our children to understand their past, their legacies, but we also want them to build and create their own. For us, Rocketship Ward 7 represents just that: the chance for all of our kids to build their own legacy right there in the community.”

Those words came from one of the founding parents of the brand new Rocketship Legacy Prep (RLP), the second Rocketship school in DC and the first in Anacostia’s Ward 7. At Rocketship, each school is named by our founding parents. The RLP parents chose the name and idea of legacy because they see their new school as joining a community of proud families, neighborhoods, and communities East of the River that have been creating legacies for generations. Together, our parents, our staff, and the entire Rocketship DC family know our students are capable of leaving transformational legacies. It starts with us. Right here. Right now. 

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Our staff reflected on the types of legacies we hope our Rocketeers will have, but we found that we cannot think ahead without first acknowledging some of the challenges that our students  have, and will continue, to face. We see the ways that many throughout DC have turned their backs on children East of the River; we have analyzed PARCC scores from surrounding schools with proficiency rates in the single digits, yet with minimal protest of those injustices; we have heard from our founding families who chose our school because they sought hope, and something other than the status quo, for their children. We know what our Rocketeers are capable of, yet we also know what they are up against.

At Orientation, we had our parents answer the question: “What do you want your Rocketeer’s legacy to be this year?” The statements that parents shared with us were powerful and gave us insight into the paths we know our Rocketeers can, and will, take. A few that truly inspired us were:

  • “To be all that she can be and open up socially.  Use her words to express herself. Stay focused, even if easily distracted. It’s okay to make mistakes because they can be fixed. A problem solver.
  • “Independent, even when mommy is not around. Pursue her goals. Know what she wants and get it. Be the smartest she can be, always.”
  • “To be a courageous thinker. To not settle for anything less than the best. To always go above and beyond and prove anyone wrong who says he isn’t capable.”

But to establish those legacies, we had to get school started.

The founding team was buzzing with excitement as we worked toward day one readiness. Founding Principal Michael Rabin spoke about the high level of innovation and entrepreneurial spirit that a founding team of teachers and parents needs to start a school. RLP marks the third school Mr. Rabin has helped found in DC. He knows that nothing quite matches the grind required of a founding school, where your own growth as a teacher and leader is unmatched. Founding Assistant Principal Ashlee Watson was looking forward to transitioning from an existing Rocketship school to founding a new school with a vision for the Ward 7 community. Ms. Watson is inspired by the opportunity to enter a community and form a new identity.

Founding Business Operations Manager Keina Hodge could not wait to see the founding team function together and meet the new Rocketeers. Ms. Hodge helped found Rocketship Futuro Academy in Concord, California last year, so she knew some of the challenges and rewards of striking out as a new school. After so much preparation, she’s ready to get the wheels in motion. And founding Office Manager Andrea McLean was grateful for the opportunity to provide families with access to high-quality, personalized learning for their students. Ms. McLean was so excited for the school that she registered her own daughter to attend. Ms. McLean knows that RLP is a place that will treat her daughter as a unique individual, meeting her needs while pushing her to grow and thrive.

Taking the sum of those individual visions and dreams, Rocketship Legacy Prep set aspirational goals for our students. Looking ahead to what legacy we want our first year to leave, we knew that we would not be satisfied merely with academic proficiency. Student success goes beyond getting kids to where they need to be academically; it means pushing them to engage with and take ownership of their learning. We will teach each Rocketeer to read beyond grade level, and then push them to use literacy as a foundation to become critical thinkers and navigate the world from an informed perspective. The over-arching vision for both the founding staff team and for the RLP community, is to be a place where the whole child is nourished every day, doing what is best for each individual and for the collective group.

We are coaches rather than managers. We commit to developing and growing our teachers, empowering them to become content experts and instructional leaders who drive student outcomes. We all benefitted from someone in our career who believed in us, who pushed us, and we aim to the do the same for our team – from support staff on up.

The same goes for our parents. Parent engagement is at the core of all that we do, and the founding RLP team committed early on to prioritizing meeting and building a relationship with every family that comes in the door. RLP partners with parents to build on the work they engage in with their children at home, conducting home visits. Good work is being done in the home, and we want to bring it into the school to build upon it and best support our Rocketeers.

Opening a new school has its challenges, but we are confident we can meet them head on. RLP is co-locating with Rocketship Rise Academy for the first six months of the school year as our new building is finished. In that time, each RLP team member will be intentional about establishing a separate identity and making sure our families feel at home. RLP will move in the middle of the school year from Ward 8 to Ward 7, making our home in a state-of-the-art building all our own, in the community where most of our families live. We are thrilled to bring our families and the relationships we have built along to our permanent home in Ward 7.

Founding a school is a continuous learning experience for everyone involved, but the legacy we will establish after only one year is more than worth it. The foundation of this legacy is trust. Trust between Rocketeers and their teachers, between teachers and their leadership team, and between Rocketship Legacy Prep and our families. It is trusting in the vision Mr. Rabin has articulated that enables us all to move forward as a united team – ready to create systems, teach lessons, and grow together. Now that’s a legacy we’re excited about!

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Michael Rabin comes to Rocketship’s second DC school with experience in educational leadership from several charter schools. Michael was a founding Assistant Principal at Rockeship Rise Academy in DC last school year. Prior to joining Rocketship, Michael was a principal intern at Prospect Hill Academy Charter School in Cambridge, MA, and worked as the co-director of academic achievement at Achievement Prep Public Charter School Network in Washington, DC (Ward 8). Before moving into school leadership, Michael taught 5th and 6th grade history, and middle school Spanish in Washington, DC and Prince George’s County, Maryland. Michael received a bachelor’s degree from Emory University where he received Phi Beta Kappa recognition, a master’s degree in teaching from American University, a master’s degree in school leadership from Harvard University, and was a member of Relay Graduate School of Education’s National Principals Academy Fellowship.

Erica Toews is an Education Pioneers Fellow who spent the summer working in Operations at Rocketship Legacy Prep. She is currently pursuing her MBA at Dartmouth. Before business school, she worked as a Product Manager at an education technology startup called Zearn. Erica was awarded a Fulbright scholarship to teach English in Malaysia for one year and worked at Google for two years after receiving her BA from Stanford. Erica is deeply passionate about elementary school education and inspired by Rocketship’s emphasis on blended learning and community engagement.

 

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