August 21, 2013

What motivated me to join the E4E team

The Eagles’ Nest

It all started with an e-mail I sent to my principal late one Tuesday evening in March. With my hands shaking at the keyboard, I proposed starting a teacher-led committee, called The Eagles’ Nest, to give teachers more of a voice when constructing and proposing school-wide initiatives to our administration. My principal e-mailed me back immediately and asked me to present the idea to the whole staff.  When I presented the proposal two days later, a group of five teachers jumped at the idea and we met instantly.

We accomplished a lot together. We chose a school-wide performance rubric and designed an honors course for our highest-achieving students. One of my colleagues, Tim, shared with me that our committee was what was “…keeping him going,” allowing him to feel more invested and appreciated as a professional.  

Nevertheless, with the joy involved in leading our committee, came the agony for me of deciding whether or not to stay in the classroom. Leading the committee was a considerable time commitment outside of the classroom and I didn’t know of a position where I could take on similar work, full-time. I found myself asking, “How can I combine my love for teaching and organizing my colleagues to share their voice?”

The core of our work

My answer came by joining E4E’s team. Through E4E, I’ve been thankful for the countless ways I’ve been able to organize teachers around policies that keep students front and center. I often tell people I work at the nexus of education policy, politics and organizing. Being in this space has allowed me to get a taste for what it’s like working within all of those fields, while still staying connected to the classroom. It’s also been exhilarating to work within a startup environment that affords me the opportunity to get a range of dynamic leadership experiences - from managing advocacy trainings to taking the lead on my own ideas for programming.

Yet the core of my work, and the most satisfying aspect by far, is working directly with teachers to connect their interests with our opportunities. For example, when I first met Keith, a high school English teacher in Queens, I was fielding questions from his students about their education policy proposals for their final project. As my colleague and I got to know him better, we discovered that along with teaching his students during the day Keith also ran for public office, is a volunteer firefighter and teaches additional classes to over-aged, under-credited students after school.  As a veteran teacher with a variety of experiences, he, like his students, was ready to put his policy ideas on paper too. He found his chance by joining E4E-NY’s 2013 Teacher Evaluation Implementation Policy Team and became an invaluable voice in the process.

Every day I get to work with the most important change makers in our system: current classroom teachers. If you want to join a vibrant staff, help grow our movement and link teachers’ passions with tangible opportunities to transform their classrooms, I highly encourage you to apply today. 

Ben Stolz is an E4E Outreach Director in Queens, New York and has been working at E4E since August 2012. Prior to E4E, Ben taught 6th grade math at Summit Academy Charter School in Brooklyn.

To join the team, visit our Careers page.