"I knew that there had to be system-level changes that could make the educational system work better for teachers, and, most importantly, for students."

Ten years ago, Kwamara Thompson was a playwright and a documentarian living in New York. Her eye was on a film career, not one in education. But then a local organization asked her to start a youth filmmaking program and later to help Newark, New Jersey, middle and high school students create documentaries and TV series. Working directly with students changed Kwamara’s perspective.

“I saw how big of an impact teachers were making day in and day out in their classrooms,” Kwamara says. She also saw how tough it could be for teachers to get the right support and resources. To better understand and improve the classroom environment, she became a teacher and instructional coach for Newark Public Schools.

Immersed in the rewarding but challenging reality of public schools, Kwamara had an important realization: “I knew that there had to be system-level changes that could make the educational system work better for teachers, and, most importantly, for students,” she says. Kwamara hungered for something more, and Education Pioneers helped her achieve broader impact.

Expertise 
  • Data & Analysis
  • Academics
  • Human Capital
Impact 

As a Fellow placed with LEAD Public Schools in Nashville, Tennessee, Kwamara ensured that all teachers in LEAD’s network of five charter schools have access to the same, high-quality curriculum. To achieve their mission to graduate 100% of their students and send them to a four-year college no matter what it takes, LEAD requires excellent, well-prepared teachers, and Kwamara’s work helped ensure this.

Applying her instructional and technical expertise, Kwamara implemented a new academic intranet to drive curriculum consistency and ensure that all LEAD teachers can access the same curriculum resources. She also leveraged her film background to build a professional development video library to help teachers constantly grow and deliver better lessons to their students.

Kwamara took a full-time position at LEAD Public Schools after the Fellowship and now leads data initiatives for the charter network. On the side, she also leads her own consulting company, improving blended learning frameworks, data management, and data driven instruction for school organizations across the country (including Education Pioneers, where she’s currently working as a placement specialist in Tennessee).

“I think of myself as the bridge between what goes on in the macro level and what goes on at the most important level, that of our students,” Kwamara says.