Supporting Schools at the District Level: Network Connections
October 2, 2019
This series highlights the deep connections between students, corps members, teacher coaches, school staff, and other alumni across the Teach For America network. In this episode, we meet Jamie VanDeWalle, a 2002 Teach For America Mississippi alum, who works as a school administrator, overseeing a group of schools that are finding innovative ways to drive strong student achievement.
How Principals Support Teachers and Students
Meet Cody Whitesell, a 2008 Indianapolis corps member, and school leader at Enlace Academy, whose time in the corps gave him the tools necessary to provide opportunities for the students he serves.
What It's Like to Teach in the Corps
Meet Krystal Coronado, a 2018 Indianapolis corps member, and science teacher at Enlace Academy, who works to empower kids daily with the support from her TFA network.
How Coaches Support Teachers
Meet José González, a TFA teacher impact coach who works closely with corps members during their two-year commitment to help them develop their teaching skills.
What It’s Like to Be a Student of a Corps Member
Meet Geraldine, a seventh-grader at Enlace Academy who is passionate about science and dreams of one day becoming a computer programmer.
'I Am Motivated Both for and by Excellence': Transcript
I think one of the biggest takeaways from my time in the corps that prepared me for every day in this role is just sort of the idea to always expect the unexpected and be ready for anything.
My name is Jamie Vandewalle. I did the Teach For America corps in the Mississippi Delta in 2002. My current role is portfolio officer at Indianapolis Public Schools.
I came to IPS a little over three years ago when this work was just starting. What attracted me to the work was just the opportunity to join something very new, was really motivated by the vision for making sure there was an excellent school in every neighborhood within Indianapolis.
Our office is the primary liaison between what we call Innovation Network Schools and the central services office where we all work. Innovation Network Schools operate with academic and operational flexibility but are held accountable by the school district for strong student achievement. Some of the schools, like Enlace Academy, are collaborators with charter partners.
Enlace is one of our oldest innovation network schools. We just make sure we’re in close communication with the school, with the mayor’s office, and our office to make sure the school is growing and serving kids in that community well.
Working in a large public school district brings a whole series of complexities and challenges. You always have to be ready to do contingency planning. I think my time in the classroom set me up really well to be able to do that.
The TFA network—when I step back and I think about all the people in this central office team specifically that I have a chance to interact with every day, we have a very large number of TFA alumni. Having that shared experience and knowing that at some point we were all aligned to that mission and we’ve carried that on with us as we’ve continued in our careers has been really powerful. Just having that common identity allows us to know we’re approaching the work from some of the same lens, which can accelerate us being able to reach our goals.
I have always said that I am motivated both for and by excellence. Coming to the corps gave me a great chance to just be surrounded by folks who just wanted to do good work to impact students and increase their outcomes.
My love of working with students, you know, my desire to make an impact—that’s why I have continued to do this work, that’s why I know I’ll be a lifelong educator.