Of the eight teachers that the U.S. Department of Education picked from across the country this year to bridge the gap between policy and practice, two come from New York City schools.
In fact, the department selected both a Washington Fellow and a Classroom Fellow from KIPP charter schools in the city, giving the network the only city schools and the only charter schools to be represented in Washington, D.C., this year.
The fellows began their term this month and will spend the year advising Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, telling policy makers about their classroom experiences, and brokering conversations among teachers about how the Obama administration is advancing its education priorities.
Joiselle Cunningham will take the year off from teaching reading at KIPP Infinity Middle School to work full-time in Washington, focusing on teacher quality issues. Jonathan McIntosh, who coordinates special education and coaches debate at KIPP AMP Charter School in Brooklyn, will continue working at his school part-time but will also spend about 20 hours a week at the U.S. Department of Education’s New York City office.
McIntosh said he would strive to visit city schools where great teaching is happening, as well.
“My first job and responsibility is to my students, but as much as possible I want to be in classrooms because I feel that’s where the change is happening,” he said.
The U.S. Department of Education fellowship was not the first honor for either McIntosh or Cunningham. This year, Cunningham was a finalist for Teach for America’s Alumni in Teaching Award, and McIntosh participated in the Summer Principals Academy at Columbia University Teachers College that former city schools official Eric Nadelstern runs.
Josh Zoia, KIPP NYC’s superintendent, said the teachers’ selection reflected the charter network’s values, as well.
“At KIPP, we believe that great teaching happens when teachers have the freedom to innovate and the opportunity to get better every day,” he said. “When something works, we celebrate it and share it broadly among other teachers. We also provide teachers with time for professional development and personal renewal. Both Jonathan and Joiselle embody this ethos so we’re very excited and proud that they’ve been selected.”
This year’s crop of eight fellows is the smallest since the U.S. Department of Education began recruiting teacher ambassadors in 2008. Four city educators had been selected for the position in the past: Genevieve DeBose of Bronx Charter School for the Arts in 2011; Jemal Graham of Brooklyn’s M.S. 113 in Brooklyn in 2010; Jason Raymond of the High School of Law and Public Service in 2009; and Nicora Placa, a Bronx mathematics educator in the program’s first year. Teachers must have five years of experience in order to apply.