Kickstart Your Career in Public Leadership
February 20, 2018
Like many college seniors, Shawnae Montagueo was uncertain about her career path after graduation. Passionate about service, she served as a 2013 New Jersey corps member, and her interest in education reform quickly extended beyond the classroom. She set her sights on shaping the policies that impacted her students—and in some cases held them back.
After completing the Public Policy Fellowship through Leadership for Educational Equity (LEE), Shawnae had the opportunity to gain insight from education advocates and co-author New Jersey’s plan to implement the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). Currently the policy and implementation manager at the New Jersey Department of Education, Shawnae supports districts throughout the state to implement ESSA at the local level.
If you are interested in following a path like Shawnae’s and pursuing a role in policy, advocacy, organizing, or elected leadership, or if you want to launch a venture of your own to end educational inequity, Teach For America can be a great place to start, and LEE can help you continue to grow.
As a corps member, you’ll gain direct experience working with students and families in low-income community schools—a perspective that is essential for leading change that puts the needs of students and their communities at the center. And as a LEE member, you’ll explore what your role can be in ensuring equal opportunities for all students and gain access to resources to achieve your goals.
Both during and after the corps, you are eligible to join LEE, a nonprofit leadership development organization whose mission is to end the injustice of educational inequity by inspiring and supporting a diverse set of leaders with classroom experience to engage civically and politically. LEE is a separate organization from Teach For America, but currently offers its programs exclusively to TFA corps members, alumni, and staff. LEE is a nonpartisan organization and supports corps members and alumni representing all political parties and affiliations.
Through one-on-one coaching, fellowships, workshops, and resources, LEE works to develop and inspire its members individually and collectively, across all disciplines—as policymakers, advocates, elected leaders and community organizers—to use their voices to advance educational equity within their communities and across the nation.
Leading Change for Students and Their Communities
Passionate about advocating for English language learners to have a voice in the political decisions that impact their community, David Lai (D.C. Region ’12) gained firsthand experience with education policy through LEE’s Policy & Advocacy Summer Fellowship.
"In addition to stressing the importance of developing skills, LEE’s emphasis on working with communities and forming coalitions helps to unravel causes of inequity and to sustain progress toward educational equity," David says.
David joined the Council of the Great City Schools as a fellow and is now is a special projects manager at the organization. The Council is a national organization that works across large city school districts to advocate for inner-city students through legislation, research, and media relations. In this role, David supports policy-related work and projects related to English language learners.
“It was through meeting with legislators from various sides of the political spectrum, writing and presenting testimony to the legislative body, and engaging with multiple stakeholders that I solidified that I want to pursue a role in government affairs.”
Finding Your Path and Purpose in Public Service
During her corps service, Samantha Kobbah (Cleveland ’14) participated in LEE’s Policy & Advocacy Summer Fellowship, Public Advisor Fellowship, and National Policy & Advocacy Workshop, all of which helped her move forward in her policy career.
“It was through meeting with legislators from various sides of the political spectrum, writing and presenting testimony to the legislative body, and engaging with multiple stakeholders that I solidified that I want to pursue a role in government affairs,” Samantha says.
She is currently an MPA candidate in the School of Public Affairs at American University, and works as a Communications intern with the Education Trust, a national advocacy organization that promotes closing opportunity gaps for students of color and those from low-income families.
Running for Public Office
Daniil Gunitskiy (Phoenix ’09) is in his fourth year serving on the school board for Phoenix #1 Elementary, a K-8 district covering downtown Phoenix. He has continued to live in that community since moving to Phoenix in 2009 as a corps member. He was elected school board president during the past year.
“I felt like I was uniquely positioned to provide something to the school district and the community from my experiences in education and my involvement more broadly in the Phoenix community,” Gunitskiy says.
Prior to running for school board, Gunitskiy attended a National Organizing Workshop through LEE, where he learned the fundamentals of community organizing and connected with a cohort of Phoenix corps members and alumni also excited about pubic leadership.
“Being in that setting with other Phoenix-based folks who are committed to this work was inspiring,” Gunitskiy says. “It also helped convince me that this is something I can do.”
When he decided to run for a position on the school board, Gunitskiy found that LEE’s mentoring was instrumental to keep him focused and on track to meet his goals.
“The accountability was super helpful,” he says. “Running a campaign feels like you are starting your own business. It’s exciting and grueling and can also feel lonely in some ways because you are responsible for yourself. It was helpful to have a point person who would check in with me on a regular basis to make sure I was hitting my goals and targets.”
Supporting Leaders at All Levels
Change happens through collective impact, and LEE creates opportunities and builds spaces for its membership of more than 41,000 leaders to connect around a shared goal of educational equity.
Teach For America is a 501(c)(3) non-profit and does not participate in political activities or endorse any campaigns or candidates for public office.