Last June, the ImpactED team grew by one! We are excited to welcome our newest team member, Assistant Director of Learning & Development, Alex Bird Becker.
Prior to joining ImpactED as a full-time staff member, Alex served as a graduate fellow at ImpactED. In her new role, Alex will oversee the design, implementation, and evaluation of ImpactED’s evaluation capacity building programs and support on several evaluation projects. Additionally, she will provide instructional support for two courses in the Executive MPA program at the Fels Institute of Government.
We sat down with Alex to get to know more about her career aspirations – and her life outside work.
You recently completed a joint degree program at Penn: an M.S.Ed. at Penn Graduate School of Education (GSE) and an MPA at the Fels Institute of Government. How did you land there?
Before I went to grad school, I found myself building this endless list of questions about the policies that perpetuated inequity in schools. Right out of college, I joined Teach For America and taught elementary school for two years in rural Louisiana. I realized early on that although teaching probably wasn’t for me long-term, I was passionate about education and was invested in joining the work to change the experience of children in America’s public schools. After leaving the classroom, I went to work for the School District of Philadelphia, where I managed elementary teacher recruitment, selection, and placement processes across the city. In my experiences both in and outside of the classroom, I gained a deeper understanding of the vast differences in the types of educational experiences that children receive based on their zip code. At that point, I felt like studying education policy would probably be a good fit, but was also balancing a growing interest in local government and its relationship with the public sector. Eventually, it became clear to me that I was looking for an interdisciplinary program that emphasized practical skills over theory. Luckily, I didn’t even need to leave the city I loved, because Penn offers that! I was able to complete both degrees in two years, and haven’t looked back since.
What about ImpactED initially drew you to the organization?
I first learned of ImpactED the summer before I began graduate school. Fels sent an email to the new class describing an opportunity for first-year students to apply for a fellowship with ImpactED. The work seemed interesting and challenging, and though I wasn’t familiar with evaluation, it piqued my interest. So, I applied! The rest is history. I threw myself into learning everything I could about the work, and in that first year, I had the privilege of supporting on some major projects, including a large scale evaluation of the Delaware Department of Education’s educator talent practices. I was also able to apply much of what I was learning to my coursework. Ultimately, it ended up being what I wanted to be doing longer term.
What energizes you the most about ImpactED’s work?
I really like that the work is not predictable. There’s always a new project or a new phase of an ongoing project — it’s just never boring. It’s also really exciting to work as a member of a small team of smart, capable, and passionate women. I know that I am supported at ImpactED, which really helps to facilitate my continued learning.
You’re originally from the Reading area but have lived in Philadelphia for five years. What is one of your favorite Philly things to do?
Philly has an amazing food scene! I do a monthly dinner with close friends that we call “Alphabet Dinner.” We rotate turns picking the place, and usually try to pick a place we haven’t been. The catch is that you have to pick a place that begins with the letter you’re on. Next week, we have H dinner! I also love exploring different neighborhoods. Philly is made up of so many cool neighborhoods, and to me, there’s nothing like walking down a street you’ve never been on and finding a cool thrift shop or market to explore.
Tell us about one of your proudest moments.
My grandparents still live in Russia and don’t speak any English. As a child, I sort of rejected the language, but in college, I decided to study Russian with the goal of being able to get to know them in their own language. My junior year, I was able to study abroad in Russia, albeit in a city a few hours from them. A few months into my program, I was able to go visit them for the weekend, and for the first time, we were able to speak without my mom translating for me. It was pretty special.
Do you have a favorite quote?
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has. — Margaret Mead