“The Ambassador Fellows are a critical investment in ensuring that the decisions affecting students are informed and implemented by our nation’s best teachers and leaders. The answers to our most challenging educational problems lie in the voices of the courageous principals and passionate teachers our Fellows bring us every day.”
– Secretary Arne Duncan
Applications for the U.S. Department of Education’s 2015-2016 cohort of Teaching and Principal Ambassador Fellows opened on December 18, 2014 and are scheduled to close on January 20, 2015 at 11:59 pm EST. For more information about the application process, visit our Teaching and Principal Ambassador Fellows program pages or go directly to the applications for the Teaching and Principal Fellowships on USAJobs.gov.
Since 2008, the Department has employed 87 outstanding teachers on a full- or part-time basis through the Teaching Ambassador Fellowship program. Last year, ED piloted a Principal Ambassador Fellowship that brought three highly-talented principals to work for the Department on a full- and part-time basis.
Teaching and Principal Ambassador Fellows are outstanding educators, with a record of leadership in the school community, strong communication skills, and insights on education policy based in their school and classroom expertise. They come with networks of support from their professional communities and have participated in a variety of activities that have prepared them to write and speak frequently about instruction, school culture and climate, educational leadership and policy.
Both of the highly selective programs reflect the belief that teachers and principals should have meaningful opportunities to learn about and shape the policies that impact students and school communities nationwide. As teachers and principals are often the most trusted sources of information about education policy for parents, community members, colleagues, and students themselves, it is imperative to create more ways to link the Department’s programs, policies, and resources directly to the field.
The Ambassador Fellows have directly contributed to hundreds of activities at the Department and captured the voices of thousands of teachers and principals from every state. They were particularly instrumental in the RESPECT project and in inspiring and executing the Department’s current Teach to Lead initiative. They were also critical partners in offering flexibility around tying teacher evaluations to new assessments and addressing a culture of over-testing.
There are two different options for candidates. The Washington Fellowship is a full-time appointment, based at the Department’s Headquarters in Washington. The Classroom Fellowship, on the other hand, enables teachers and principals to participate on a part-time basis, while still allowing them to fulfill their regular school responsibilities.
All Teaching Ambassador Fellows spend one year learning about key federal programs and policies, sharing their expertise with federal staff members, and providing background on federal initiatives to other educators. This helps teachers better understand and implement these efforts at the federal, state and local levels. For the Fellows, the program provides greater knowledge of federal educational policy, strengthens their leadership skills, and gives them the firsthand opportunity to address some of the challenging issues facing education today.
“Being a Teaching Ambassador Fellow has been the best professional learning of my career,” says Tami Fitzgerald. “I have learned about educational policy, but more than that, I have discovered that my voice can be heard, and our collective voices can make a difference.” Principal Ambassador Fellow, Rachel Skerritt adds, “The Principal Ambassador Fellowship is intended to be a beneficial resource to the Department, allowing ED to hear valuable input from school leaders. However, the experience has been just as beneficial to my own learning and leadership. I constantly bring back best practices to my own school, having had the privilege of meeting passionate principals nationwide.”
Great teachers and principals—please consider applying and sharing this information with your colleagues! Sign up for updates on the Teaching and Principal application processes, call 1-800-USA-Learn, or email us at TeacherFellowship@ed.gov or PrincipalFellowship@ed.gov with questions.
Gillian Cohen-Boyer is Director of the Principal and Teaching Ambassador Fellowships Programs at the U.S. Department of Education.
Youth from every ethnicity and population group experience challenges. American Indian and Alaska Native youth in the foster care system often also must contend with a disconnection from their tribal communities and cultures.
On Dec. 8th, I attended a Student Voices session at the White House hosted by the Department of Education (ED) and Department of Interior. During this time, I witnessed the Obama Administration turn a corner on an issue that is too often invisible to the general public and politicians – understanding the plight of Native youth in foster care.
Fifteen current and former foster care youth representing American Indian and Alaska Native nations from across the United States sat down with Secretaries Arne Duncan and Sally Jewell at the event to discuss the unique struggles that Native youth face.
They all courageously shared stories of survival before entering foster care and of a heartbreaking desire to remain connected to their tribes when placed in foster homes far from their tribal communities. For me, their stories and my own share a key message — take us away from our homes and our culture, and you take us away from our identity and our drive to achieve.
After the meeting, Secretary Duncan asked how ED could help improve academic achievement and the well-being of Native youth in the foster care system.
With 566 federally recognized tribes—each with its own history, language and customs—no one curriculum plan or program can adequately provide the needed emotional, cultural and academic support for all Native youth. Fortunately, numerous tribes and tribal organizations desire a chance to partner with the government to improve the situation. My hope is that new tribal partnerships – specifically for American Indian and Alaska native foster youth – could make schools a safe and trusted alternative to the turmoil these students often encounter outside the school environment.
For me, school was my only haven, allowing me a few hours each day to forget the abuse and neglect I suffered in my most formative years. But, unfortunately, my educational experience is not the norm. My teachers did not address my behavioral problems, frequent absences from school, and lack of foundational skills, such as phonics, because I was always the brightest student in class. I also had thick skin to the racism I experienced in public school. Being Native Hawaiian, as well as American Indian, enabled me to attend Kamehameha Schools, a K-12 boarding-and-day institution that immerses students in Native Hawaiian culture. Kamehameha became my advocate, protector and family. Eventually, my school counselor became my foster mother.
I know firsthand that educational institutions can be not only a source of academic and emotional support for all students with unfortunate circumstances at home, but also a place of cultural opportunity for American Indian and Alaska Native youth disconnected from their tribal communities. So, I am happy to say that my time at the White House and with Secretaries Duncan and Jewell has shown me that the Administration is searching for new ways to improve the lives of Native foster youth. And, more personally, it showed me that people do care about what happens to the invisible.
Seanna Pieper-Jordan is a former foster care youth of Native Hawaiian and American Indian (Blackfeet) descent. She graduated from Yale University with a Bachelors of Arts degree in Sociology in 2013 and Kamehameha High School with honors in 2008. She currently works as a public policy specialist in Washington, D.C.
Elise Patterson faces challenges in her classroom every day, but there’s nothing else she’d rather be doing than teaching. Patterson is an English teacher who, like so many educators across the country, is tackling challenges and making a difference in her classroom and in her students’ lives.
Now is a time of profound change in education, perhaps the greatest change in decades. Teachers are leading the change, taking on the hard work of implementing higher standards in their own classrooms, and, like Patterson, discovering that they can do what they love with even greater results for their students.
See what it’s like to teach today through Patterson’s eyes in the first installment of a new video series that takes viewers behind the scenes with teachers and other educators who are doing the hard work to lead change, innovation, and improvement in classrooms throughout the country.
Improving Education: The View from Ms. Patterson’s Classroom, shows how a teacher at Eastern Senior High School in Washington, D.C., is helping her students to excel.
“I’m passionate about teaching because I get to interact with so many people in such a meaningful way,” she says. “The reason I decided to make this my career is because I think there’s such a need for good teaching … [and] because I see how much of a change you can make on a day-to-day basis with individual students.”
Her tips include more collaboration with other teachers and between departments, and really challenging students to improve upon their leadership and critical-thinking skills. Her passion has helped her successfully implement higher standards in her classroom. Learn more about Patterson’s story below:
As we continue to highlight extraordinary educators doing remarkable things in classrooms nationwide we want to hear from teachers. Get in touch with us, and help us share your inspiring stories.
To learn more about Patterson and her classroom tips, visit our Partners in Progress page.
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The holiday season can be a great time for families to celebrate diversity!
Parents and caregivers, you can choose to use this time to teach your children about customs that are different from your own and you can help children to understand and embrace other cultures.
Children learn best by seeing, doing, and being a part of a new experience.
Engage your child by reading to him or her about how other cultures celebrate holidays during this time of year. The Library of Congress is a great resource for stories about Christmas and Hanukkah. You can choose to search online for resources about observances such as and the way that people in different countries mark the arrival of the New Year. You also can find information about celebrations that happen on or around the winter solstice. Once you’ve read together, encourage your child to create something – like a painting, a drawing, a mask or a sculpture – representing some festival or tradition that interests him or her.
You also can head into the kitchen! Try making a special dish that is served during the holidays in a culture other than your own. Plum pudding or candied yams are just two dishes that come to mind.
Parents and families can use this time to teach children about the importance of volunteering in the community as well. A visit to a senior facility is one way children can learn about other cultures; the importance of community; and the incredible wealth of wisdom, values, and history that the elder members of any neighborhood have to share with the next generation.
Another fun activity could be exploring how other people and countries celebrate and then creating a list of places to visit.
A trip to your local library is always a fantastic way to find new information and fun activities that will allow your child to discover how wonderful other cultures are. Learning about humanity’s diversity and richness gives us all so much more to celebrate – during the holidays and throughout the year!
Carrie Jasper is director of outreach to parents and families at the U.S. Department of Education.
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