From Teaching to Recruiting: My Journey at Rocketship

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by Caitlyn Metteer
Associate Director, Recruitment

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.

 

Rocketship Parents Featured on “Reinventing America’s Schools”

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Rocketship DC parents Erika Harrell and Shavon Collier had the honor to be featured in The 74 Million’s latest project, “Reinventing America’s Schools.” Ms. Harrell and Ms. Collier are both founding parents of Rocketship Rise Academy.

This project by The 74 was inspired by the new book Reinventing America’s Schools: Creating a 21st Century Education System, by the Progressive Policy Institute’s David Osborne. It is a bracing survey of the most dramatic improvements taking place in urban public education today, in cities as diverse as New Orleans, Denver, Washington, D.C., and Indianapolis. To celebrate the publication of Osborne’s book and to further tell the story found in it, The 74 Million created a microsite of stories and videos from each profiled region. Continue reading

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.  Continue reading

He Thought He Hated School. Here’s How We Turned It Around for a Kid With Special Needs

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by Stephanie Storlie
Integrated Special Education (ISE) Specialist, Rocketship Rise Academy

*This post originally appeared on Education Post

“I’m not going to that school. I don’t even like school,” Chase yelled at me. Running up and down a slide, holding a giant stick two feet taller than him, this almost kindergartener in tall white men’s tube socks, blue swim trunks, and a neon orange shirt was already giving me a run for my money—and school hadn’t even started yet. It was July 2016 and I was doing my home visit to Chase’s family in Southeast D.C. before Chase started at Rocketship Rise Academy. I knew that we could create a learning environment where Chase could thrive. But I never imagined how far he would come in his first year. Continue reading

Learning & Letting Go: A Year in a Kinder Classroom

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by Chelsea Graeff
Kindergarten Teacher, Rocketship Los Sueños 

“Ms. Graeff! Ms. Graeff!”

When you are a kindergarten teacher, you are a celebrity. All of the kids call out your name when they see you, with admiration, joy and expectation — not only the students who are with you for the 180 days of that particular school year, but also all the kids who have sat in your classroom over the years. That’s because kindergarten is like no other year in elementary school. For the students, everything is new and a little bit scary at first. For the teacher, we have the privilege of shaping a child’s identity as a student and their idea of what school is all about. There is nothing more dramatic than the change in a kindergartener from the beginning of the year to the end.

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A Dream Realized: From Undocumented to Graduate to Teacher, What I Learned at Rocketship Discovery Prep

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by Angelica Del Rio
First Grade Literacy Teacher, Rocketship Discovery Prep
 

I never thought I’d get here. I never thought I’d be legally allowed to stay in this country, be a college graduate, or be a teacher. Coming originally from Tijuana, Mexico, when I was one year old, my family immigrated to San Jose.  We scraped by those first few years. We crammed eight people into a two bedroom apartment. My father was always working, trying to keep food on the table and saving up so we could move into our own home. When I turned five, my dad bought our first house.

I started school that same year. I went to a nearby school in the neighborhood. It was great and I got good grades. But everything changed when I got to middle school. My parents were no longer able to help me with my homework but they still expected me to earn straight A’s. My dad would tell me “You only have one job. Your job is to go to school and get good grades. My job is to work to give you food and shelter so you can bring those excellent grades home.” I was so scared to disappoint my family. I did not know how to study, so I memorized everything by writing it down on a paper. I would read what I wrote to myself and I would go to sleep repeating what I had written from my books. My grades improved but I’m not sure I really learned much in middle school. In high school, things got a little better. I did well in math and science, but I hated English. I understand the pain that many of my students have when they are not able to write or say something grammatically correct in English.

Sparking Creative Classroom Solutions Through Teacher Innovation

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by Beyond Editorial Staff

Helping fourth graders access and understand the news. Increasing personalization in kinder STEM classes. These are just some examples of how our creative Rocketship teachers used funds they won in our first ever round of ‘Innovation Grants.’ This grant, sponsored by the Achievement and Operations Teams, awarded 5 different grants to help Rocketship staff innovate and solve important challenges that impact our Rocketeers. The grants were aimed at projects that identify specific, “bite-size” issues and include innovative and scalable solutions to solving the issues. 12 staff members, from teachers to enrichment coordinators to office managers, applied for this inaugural round of funding.  Here are some examples of the winners…

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‘We’re With You’: Fourth Graders Learn Empathy Through Art

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by Briana Burtsell, Rocketship United Academy Art Enrichment Coordinator and Visual Art Instructor

Walking into the lobby of the Nashville Ronald McDonald House you know immediately that this is a welcoming place for kids. Brightly colored walls, comfortable seating, beautiful art, and a big kids play area fill the space. The problem is that families staying at the Ronald McDonald House spend most of their days in the hospital with their child and their nights in the individual family rooms, not in the lobby. The family rooms have not been brightened and decorated like the rest of the house, but instead remain grey and bare. Continue reading

March Math Madness

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by Heidy Shinn

Prinipal, Rocketship Sí Se Puede Academy

 “Go down deep enough into anything and you will find mathematics.” – Dean Schlicter

When it comes to STEM education, the case for curiosity and exploration often gets lost in the traditional classroom. At Rocketship we believe in encouraging our student’s appetite for learning by igniting their curiosity and allowing them to experience learning. Last month for example, Rocketeers at Si Se Puede Academy found the connection between math and basketball during the NCAA March Madness tournament as they were transformed into court-side statisticians at the SAP Center in San Jose.

We caught up with Si Se Puede Principal Heidy Shin to find out more about this March Math Madness. Check out her story below. 

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Gratitude is a Choice We Make Every Day

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by Tatum Schultz
Third Grade STEM Teacher, Rocketship United Academy

Every language in the world has a way of saying “thank you.” Gratitude is an inherent quality that resides deep within each one of us. It is triggered by different events and crosses the boundaries of race, age, and gender. Gratitude comes from the heart. It is an acknowledgment of the positive things that we feel in our soul. When we give gratitude, we give a gift freely and unearned.img_9471

At Rocketship United Academy, our leaders, teachers, and support staff are dedicated to sharing gratitude. Within our halls a positive culture thrives. Respect, responsibility, empathy, and persistence are our core values we believe in. We build on our core values and allow our Rocketeers to grow in a community that shares a desire to exceed expectations.

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Rising Into School Leadership

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by Michelle Chung Ng
Assistant Principal, Rising Stars Academy

I can still remember the day my coach suggested I should apply to be in Rocketship’s Rising Leaders program. I was excited by the challenge and the opportunity to grow professionally. As a member of the Rising Leaders cohort 15-16, I have grown professionally by being honest about my development areas, being pushed out of my comfort zone and sharing openly with those in my cohort. Sitting in a room with other highly effective teachers who want to grow and learn as a professional inspires me.

Rising Leaders is a leadership development program that is offered to teachers at Rocketship who are interested in growing their adult management skills and have taught for more than two years. The program is designed both for teachers who want to grow their leadership in the classroom or begin the transition into school leadership. We meet once a month with our cohort, which is composed of about 20 teachers across the network.

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United We Learn

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by Jason Egly
Teacher, Rocketship United Academy

Egypt

Kenya

Somalia

Mexico

Honduras

El Salvador

Venezuela

Puerto Rico

USA

Is this about the Olympics?

No. It’s a list of the homelands proudly represented by the students in my two fourth grade Humanities classes at Rocketship United Academy (RUA) in Nashville. Continue reading