August 21, 2013

Teachers Talk Back: Jeff Austin

Jeff Austin teaches at Social Justice Humanitas Academy in San Fernando and is an avid soccer fan. He has a 15-month old daughter and lives in Highland Park, CA.  Jeff was also a member of the 2013 E4E-Los Angeles Teacher Policy Team on Attracting and Retaining Teachers in Hard-to-Staff Schools.

Why did you become a teacher?

While studying at UC San Diego I was unsure what I wanted to do. My third year they opened a charter school on campus focused on students who would be the first generation in their family to go to college.  This was different than the world I grew up in.  The more I learned about those who were seeking opportunity I knew that I could make a difference as a teacher. 

You were one of the founding members of a LAUSD Pilot School. What motivated you to take on this challenge?

First and foremost, my students motivate me each and every day to take on the challenges and opportunities of a pilot school. My pilot school gave me the opportunity for me and my colleagues to build the type of school that we had always envisioned working for.  I enjoy the opportunity to be empowered as a teacher to make the things happen that are needed for the benefit of my students and my classroom.  It has also helped me to meet new networks and find creative ways to engage fellow teachers.

Why did you join E4E-Los Angeles’s Teacher Policy Team?

Once I was teaching in Los Angeles I started noticing that my job became more difficult. Even as I was trying to grow as a teacher, it felt like the system wasn’t encouraging me to get better and I was getting limited support.  I did not see a place for me to grow in my school.  I didn’t realize I was interested in policy until I was part of starting Social Justice Humanitas Academy and saw that teacher voice was not being heard. 

What have you enjoyed about the policy team?

I enjoy having the chance to dig into an idea that is really impacting my school right now: finding and developing quality teachers.  It is great for me to discover ideas that can both help my school and other schools by recommending policy that is teacher-led and student-focused.  I have also really been encouraged by the other members of my team, they keep me motivated to stay professional and bring my best to my classroom.

Why did you join E4E?

Everything I try to be a part of is around the common vision about bringing quality people into the profession and advocating for high quality schools.  I enjoy the opportunity to learn more about the challenges we face in our school and overcome them.  I like that I have the opportunity to be heard through my network at E4E and my work on the policy team.