New Orleans

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.

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.

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
 

 

Champion Spotlight - Brittany Packnett

It's always a delight to celebrate members of our community who tirelessly elevate the work, particularly when that member is one of the brightest voices of the next generation of educators. Leading Educators is excited to see Brittany Packnett recognized as one of LinkedIn’s Next Wave - Top Professionals 35 and Under.

Chief Executive Officer Jonas S. Chartock, who shared a stage with Ms. Packnett at our 2016 Leading Educators Institute, had this to say:

“For way too long, the views and leadership of people of color have been overwhelmingly marginalized in conferences, panels, and other prominent education reform spaces. Brittany Packnett is unafraid to step into these forums, deftly tackling the complex intersections of race and systemic racism that impact not only communities of color, but the institutions at work within them. Her insight and generosity of spirit is nothing less than transformative. Her leadership will no doubt continue to push our thinking as we work to bring educational equity and justice for students forward.”

Check out some of the highlights from last summer’s empowering conversation with Brittany:

Brittany Packnett - On Culturally Responsive Institutions and Internalizing Racism

Click here for the rest of the conversation.

CONGRATULATIONS, BRITTANY!

Leading Educators' CEO Jonas S. Chartock with Brittany Packnett, Vice President, National Community Alliances, Teach For America

Leading Educators Receives $300,000 Commitment from Baptist Community Ministries to Support the Teacher Leader Teams Fellowship

NEW ORLEANS, July 7, 2016 – Leading Educators has received a $300,000 commitment from Baptist Community Ministries (BCM) to support the instructional leadership development of teacher leaders across Greater New Orleans over the next two years...