Reflecting on TNTP’s 20th Anniversary
20 years ago, TNTP joined the fight for educational equality as a scrappy startup, recruiting and training teachers in Philadelphia, New York City, Austin and the state of Massachusetts.
We’ve come a long way since then.
Last year alone, we worked with nearly 200 school systems nationwide, reaching 6 million students. Over the last two decades, we've recruited or trained 50,000 diverse teacher leaders and school leaders, helped over 30 school systems get smarter on how to ensure strong instruction, and helped our partners understand how to work with their communities to create lasting change. We've also published original research and perspectives that have helped the field of public education define–and attempt to solve–its most vexing issues.
In spite of that progress, educational equity still remains elusive for millions of students–an injustice is what will keep us fighting for the next 20 years. And we couldn't keep fighting without our amazing people.
As we close out our 20th year, we wanted to share a few reflections from some of the TNTP staff members who bring the passion, heart and smarts to our mission. They come from remarkably diverse backgrounds, but they share one thing in common: at some point in their lives, it hit home that not all students are getting the education they deserve. Instead of waiting for someone else to act, these bold thinkers joined the fight.
Ginny Johnson, Site Manager in Philadelphia, PA
"I grew up in a very rural town in Texas, and throughout my schooling, I was always a strong student. But when I moved on to college, probably within the first month, I realized that I wasn't prepared to really meet the level of rigor that my university was offering to me, and I struggled mightily throughout all four years of college.Thankfully, I finished and earned my degree, and that accomplishment was super important to me because it broke a generational curse. My entire generation on my father's side of the family, we all now have our bachelor degrees. So in thinking about my work with TNTP, I am always thinking about how much more we can do, about what blind spots we might have. About who is not at the table. Given my own personal experiences, I want to make sure we don't forget kids in smaller communities."
Alex Magiera, Senior Manager in Chicago, IL
"I was really lucky in my school experience. I loved school, and I always felt really supported. And as a teacher, I tried to channel that for my students. Even now, when we work with our partners, whether they are teachers or assistant superintendents, I ask how they're thinking about their students. I remember how hard it is to be a teacher. It's been a while since I've been in the classroom, but I always try to remember that while my experience in the classroom was exhausting, there was never a day that I didn't want to do what was best for my kids. I always try to remember what it was like to do that, day in and day out, and how much heart it takes. Because I know that everyone we work with brings that same heart each day."
Whitney Newton, Program Manager for Indianapolis Teaching Fellows in Indianapolis, IN
"My very first year of teaching, I had a student who had moved to Indianapolis from another city because of a family emergency. On the very first day of school, she explained to me that this was the year she was going to pass the state test because she'd been held back before, and she didn't want to be held back again. And so we studied all year. We worked so hard. I couldn't have asked for more from her. Ultimately though, it wasn't enough. She was missing basic math facts. She was not ready for seventh grade math. And it was such a crystal clear moment for me, very early on, that I can work really, really hard for an individual student and that still might not be enough because there are so many structural pieces in place that keep kids from being able to achieve. My hope for students, especially in Indianapolis, because I care so much about my city, is that when they are as committed as my student was, the structures and the adults are there, ready to come alongside and truly help students push themselves to where they want to be."
Carmen Orozco, Senior Recruitment Manager in Goodyear, AZ
"I grew up in Los Angeles with a single mom who had five kids. We lived in poverty, and sometimes it seemed like the school system didn't even expect us to graduate. And in my family, nobody actually gradated high school. It wasn't until I barely made it through graduation that I saw that there were opportunities if I did go to college. It wasn't an easy path, but now with that experience, I want it to be different for kids growing up in the same communities I grew up in. I recruit teachers that I wish I would have had in the classroom. I'm bringing someone who is going to really make a difference. And that's why I love what I do."
Anashay Wright, Partner in San Antonio, TX
"I understand the power of great teachers & leaders. During my junior year of high school, my mom was diagnosed with cancer. I was only 15 years old, my mom was a single parent with three children and we lived well below the poverty line. Mom was bound to a wheelchair and spent a lot of time in the hospital. This prevented her from being involved & engaged, but my teachers and high school principal Mrs. S stood in the gap. Believe it or not, I’m still very connected to them! My high school band teacher Mr. D became a second father; and he and Principal S follow me on social media. Sadly, my mom passed away the year after I graduated, but Mr. D and his wife were the first people to show up in support. Yep, I truly understand the power of a great teacher, their impact can be life-changing and has the power to impact a child beyond their immediate presence. A great teacher stands in the gap, when a child doesn't have anyone else. That's how I know my work at TNTP is my calling."
Shanequa Yates, Partner in Atlanta, GA
"I was born in the projects in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York to a single teenage mother. There were a lot of assumptions about what my life would be like, and where I would end up in life.
This work matters because every classroom that I walk into, I see a child who reminds me of me. I remember being a young child who loved to read books. My mom, even as a teenage parent, always valued education and she exposed me to books at an early age. It was important for her to instill in me a love of learning and reading and most importantly, she made sure that I saw myself in the pages that I read.
As a child, one of my favorite books was Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters, an African tale written by an African-American author John Stepstoe, who was born in the same community that I am from. Even as a child I knew that my success in school was because I was an early reader and that I had a sense of pride in the accomplishments of African people across the diaspora. I know that, because I had that early success, it led to later opportunities in my life.
And so this work matters to me because I shouldn't be a story of triumph. All students, regardless of their zip code, should have those same opportunities and the same sense of pride in themselves and their community. I know what the importance of an education was for me and for my family. All of my siblings (me, Shamir and Kyana) are all college graduates of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and so just from one generation to the next, we are changing economic opportunities within our own family. And all that matters. It has real life consequences."
As we head into 2018, we're focused on what can we learn from students—and their aspirations and experiences—to advance our mission over the next 20 years. Thank you for being with us along the way.