Alumni in Action
“It made me realize that I wasn't crazy after all to make this career switch and that, in fact, I was in really good company.”
Mara Rodriguez - Graduate School Fellow Boston 2008
Spotlight on Mara Rodriguez
As a Marketing Director with Procter & Gamble, I spent my days figuring out how to sell more disposable diapers and make more money doing it. When I conducted home interviews with new mothers, however, I found myself listening less to what they had to say about diapers, and more about what they wanted for their children. Without exception, they strongly believed that access to a quality education was their children's ticket to a better life. I was also acutely aware that as a nation, we were consistently failing these mothers.
I decided to leave P&G and find a way to help the mothers whose stories had moved me. From the moment I encountered Education Pioneers - from the staff that interviewed me and the leaders at Schoolworks, to my cohort and the panelists we heard speak during the workshops - I was blown away. Here were all these incredibly talented people who were eager to put their skills and their overpriced degrees to work not for shareholders but for children. I honestly didn't know these people existed!
It made me realize that I wasn't crazy after all to make this career switch and that, in fact, I was in really good company.
As comforting as that was, in many ways the fellowship was about making me feel uncomfortable. Every time I thought I had the answer about how to improve public education, someone added a perspective that completely challenged my thinking. You'd hear people say 'I'm torn', 'I'm on the fence on this one' or 'I know I sound like a flip flopper' but it evidenced how our thinking was evolving and becoming richer, because of each other. At the same time, the fellowship showed me that as complex as education is, reform is possible. I was exposed to so many organizations - charter schools, non-profits, districts, philanthropic foundations and private organizations - all channeling incredible energy and breakthrough thinking into programs and policies that are dramatically changing the education landscape and directly improving students' lives. I realized that I could fit in any number of places and make a contribution.
I am thrilled to say that for now, that contribution is as a 6th grade math teacher. When I was in high school, I ripped out an ad from a magazine with the quote: 'In a perfectly rational society, the best of us would be teachers and the rest would have to settle for something less.' I just don't want to settle, right now, I want to experience the energy and the challenges of the classroom first hand. Whether this is the beginning of a career as a teacher,
I don't know, but it is definitely the first step in a life-long career in public education.
I look forward to staying connected to the 25 brilliant people in my cohort as we, together, do our part to transform our communities, one student at a time.