Cohort 2015 Spotlight: Dean Gancarz-Davies

School: FirstLine Schools

Hometown: My early years were in Severna Park, Maryland. Then my high school years were in Brooklyn, New York.

What made you want to become a teacher?

I was a psychology major in college (at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota) and as junior and senior, I had an internship as a Developmental Therapist with autistic preschoolers. I loved it and completely grooved on it and thought "I want to do this for the rest of my life." I talked with my program, and they said I had to go into the public schools to do that. So I had various teacher aides positions in public schools and then when I moved to New Orleans...I did a program called Pathways to Teaching at Tulane where I took classes and taught in New Orleans public schools. Now I've been teaching for over 20 years since.

What brought you to your current position as Athletic Director?

I taught 4th grade, 6th grade, gifted resource, and 2nd grade. And I figured out that I was so busy that I was never able to exercise. To feel good, I need to exercise. So I thought, how can I make exercise part of my job? I have to be a PE teacher! So I went back to UNO and got my Master's Degree in PE and Health in 2005. And since then, I've been teaching PE and then became an athletic director.

Can you explain your inspiration for your CPL and Impact Initiative?

When I was a fourth-grade teacher, I was at a brainstorming session around what can we do to improve test scores. Well, my fourth graders were having a hard time sitting still, and I thought if we had an intense physical activity portion at the start of the day, my test scores would improve. I was laughed out of the room. I read a book called "Spark" after that. The first part was how in Illinois, a heavy fitness program at the beginning of the school day really advanced test scores in a huge way. When I read this in the book, I thought "That's what I was saying!" Later, when I was pushed to doing the Impact Initiative (with Leading Educators), I thought this was something I really believed in - if we can get kids to be more physically active that their academics will improve. So that is what I am trying to do, with all my PE teachers and specifically with kids who are really struggling, getting some of that exercise-induced focus back into the classroom.

What is one lesson you learned last year that you would share with a first year LE Fellow?

Make your Leading Educators time a priority. There will be a lot of pulls on your time and it would be easy to put LE stuff on the back burner, but it's equally as important if not more important than all the other stuff you have to do. It's a development of our craft that can really make significant strides with our students more so than other things we may be required to do.

Champion Spotlight - Jonas Chartock

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What do Lady Gaga, two former U.S. presidents, the Duke of York, the “Oracle of Omaha” and Oprah all have in common? They have all been named as the top influential do-gooders in the world, right alongside Leading Educators’ Chief Executive Officer, Jonas Chartock.

Digital media platform Richtopia released its list of the Top 200 Most Influential Do-Gooders in the World. Richtopia, which espouses equity-driven business practices and environmentally conscious endeavors, based their selections on social capital and influence, not merely net worth. Weighing metrics from sources such as Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Wikipedia, LinkedIn and Instagram, plus their own “secret sauce,” candidates are chosen for their continual drive to leverage social media for social good.

Chartock is taking the praise with his usual humility, both surprised and honored to be included, but observing that he was slotted at #153 - placing him just behind World Wrestling Entertainment’s (WWE) Stephanie McMahon. Call us optimists, but we can’t help but note that’s also one slot *above* one of the biggest names in online marketing, Seth Godwin.  

You can find him at all hours on his twitter feed here.

Congratulations, Jonas!

Champion Spotlight: Dr. Pamela Puryear

At Leading Educators, we celebrate the outstanding achievements of those in our community.  We are delighted to see that Black Enterprise agrees and has named Dr. Pamela Puryear as one of the Most Powerful Women in Business for 2017.

Dr. Puryear has been a member of Leading Educators’ Board of Directors since 2015, bringing a wealth of professional experience and visionary excellence to our organization.  Last December, Dr. Puryear was also named Trailblazer of the Year by the National Association of African-Americans in Human Resources (NAAAHR) to celebrate her extraordinary commitment and contributions to the human resources field.

We salute Dr. Puryear’s accomplishments and are proud to call her part of the Leading Educators’ family.

CONGRATULATIONS, DR. PURYEAR!

Tragedy Strikes FirstLine Schools Community

Dear Friends of Leading Educators:

In the early hours of Friday, March 10th, our community experienced a devastating tragedy. It was discovered that New Orleans Kindergartner Jumyrin Smith and his brother Justin Simms (5th grade) had been fatally wounded along with their mother, Monique Smith. Sister A'Miya Smith (7th grade) survived the shooting, but remains in critical condition.

All three children were students at Samuel J. Green Charter School, which is one of many partner schools in our New Orleans / Baton Rouge teacher leadership cohort.

FirstLine Schools CEO and Leading Educators Board Member Jay Altman announced a fund established for the Smith Family in their time of crisis. Donations may also be made in person at any Capital One Bank. Please donate and share with your networks.

As Gentilly grapples with this tremendous loss, our hearts go out to the classmates of A’Miya, Justin and Jumyrin, as well as the teachers who provide safety and stability for the children of Samuel J. Green.

A Classroom Without a Woman?

We at Leading Educators are bound by the core belief that all children deserve a high quality education. We believe that through investments in teacher leadership based on rigorous content, anti-bias education and a strong culture of learning, we can create equitable schools that yield students who are college and career ready.

Central to preparing young people for successful lives and careers is the role of the teacher. Knowing how critical teachers are to our society and to the life prospects of our students, we believe it is important to take time to recognize the historical and current role of women in cultivating and leading the future of our country. Across the world earlier this week, communities recognized International Women’s Day and participated in A Day Without A Woman - a movement encouraging women and their allies to mark the day by uniting in economic protest, wearing red, refraining from making purchases (except from small, minority or women-owned businesses) and in some cases, staying home from their jobs. Organizers sought to draw attention to the essential role of women in the workforce, as well as important policies such as equal pay and paid family leave, inciting global grassroots gains towards justice and human rights.

Teaching, like nursing, social work, and many service industries, is largely a female-dominated profession. According to 2012 statistics, nearly 76% of all teachers in this country are female; however, it is worth noting that women are drastically underrepresented in leadership roles - occupying a mere 27% of district superintendent slots.

Many of these teachers - like women across the country and across the globe - marked "A Day Without A Woman" by staying out of schools and classrooms. Some criticism was leveled against the observance, as some school districts closed in anticipation of insufficient staff to cover such significant absences. This raises a tension that is particularly relevant to our work. Leading Educators partners with some of the most underserved, high-risk student populations, and we are acutely aware of the loss of valuable learning time. We also believe that students learn a great deal by watching how adults in their lives model the values they espouse.  

At Leading Educators, equity and community are among our core values. We invest our energies in fighting systemic injustice through community engagement. With a staff that is nearly two-thirds female, the long- and short-term impact of “A Day Without a Woman” is at the forefront of our minds. In a letter to our staff, CEO Jonas Chartock said, “Whether [Leading Educators’ employees] should choose to take the day off in protest, wear red, or abstain altogether, we recognize that we would not be the organization we are without the labor and leadership of women.”

On International Women’s Day and all days, Leading Educators recognizes and appreciates the essential labor and leadership of women, and salutes their essential role in building the leaders of tomorrow.

Emergency Outreach Opportunities in Our NOLA Community

Dear Friends and Supporters of Leading Educators,

As many of you know, seven tornadoes touched down in New Orleans last Tuesday, damaging nearly 1,000 structures, injuring 30, and leaving an estimated 4,000 without power.

I am relieved to report that Leading Educators’ team and offices were spared, but times like these serve to remind us that unexpected - and sometime catastrophic - events can happen to us at any time.  Now that the storms have cleared, it is time for us to rally around and support each other.  We’ve already received many inquiries from those who want to know how they can help. In response, we’ve compiled the list below of good local organizations that might benefit from your support, including one of our partner schools:

On behalf of Leading Educators and our NOLA-based team, thank you for the kind notes and concern over the past few days. We are fortunate to have been unaffected, and we appreciate being part of such a caring team and community.

Warmly,

Steph

Steph Bates
Associate Director of Program Delivery
Leading Educators, New Orleans