Director of Program and Partnerships at Urban Teachers – Philadelphia
Sociology Major; Africana Studies Minor
I’m the new Director of Program and Partnerships for Urban Teachers—it’s a program that has sites in D.C., Baltimore, and Dallas, and we’re starting up the Philly site this year. We recruit young people and career changers to teach in urban schools and put them through a four-year program where they get a master’s degree along the way, and then hopefully they stay in the profession.
The work I’m doing now to bring really great teachers to students is going to be impactful, because how well you do depends on the teachers you have and how seen you feel.
Most of my past roles have been in operations or programming instead of teaching, but throughout I was still coaching basketball. That was my way of getting directly to students. Last fall, a young lady stopped me and asked, “Are you Mandisa? Are you Ms. John?” She was one of my former basketball players from maybe seven years ago, and now she’s a teacher at the same school where I was working. That was a huge, full-circle moment, like okay, this is the work. Whatever path she took to get here, I know I made an impact. She remembered me and wanted to make it a point to show me she was there.
One thing that keeps me up at night is access to education for young people who come from areas like I did. My family moved just 15 minutes away to a new town when I was in middle school, and the opportunities I was afforded by switching to a public school that had resources were completely different. Now, having been in Philadelphia for so long—seeing the differences between schools while knowing that every young person deserves every opportunity—that’s something I struggle with a lot. The disparities are just so vast. The work I’m doing now to bring really great teachers to students is going to be impactful, because how well you do depends on the teachers you have and how seen you feel. — April 1, 2022 • Photo by Brooke Sietinsons