By Marilu Aguilar-Moreno
from Aspire’s Talent Team
We travel many roads before we find a place that feels like home. As we make progress on our journey, the fuzzy destination becomes a little clearer and so we adjust accordingly to align with it.
For this month’s spotlight, Mikayla Johnson shares the story of how she found her niche in the education space as an Education Specialist and how her work inspires her to be the champion that her students deserve.
Her story serves as a testament that when you invest in yourself and lean on your community for support, you can find your way. Read on to learn more about Mikayla!
How long have you been working at Aspire and what do you like most about what you do?
I started working at Aspire in December 2017, so I have been here for a little bit over three years. What I like most about what I do is being able to work with such amazing people. Everyone truly wants the best for scholars and will go to lengths to give them what they need to be successful.
Can you share more about your journey from your first role to now being a candidate for an Education Specialist credential?
I had just moved to California to pursue a Biomedical Graduate Program at CSU East Bay and soon realized that it wasn’t for me. I was set on finding a program that I could invest myself in and that aligned more with my interests. The field of education kept coming up for me. I came across the Aspire Teacher Residency Program via Alder GSE and got in contact with an amazing recruiter, who connected me to job opportunities as a way to get acquainted with school communities, while I waited for Alder’s next application cycle. I was hired at Aspire Triumph Technology Academy as an After School Educator, and a few months later, in the Summer of 2018, I enrolled in the Aspire Teacher Residency Program where I had the most amazing experience. I met and worked with a cohort that I still keep in touch with to this day. After completing my residency, I became a third-grade math teacher.
Why did you decide to become an Education Specialist?
Reflecting on my first year as a teacher, I was hoping I would work with small student groups more frequently. Although I loved my school site and colleagues, I preferred a role tailored to work with students in a focused and nuanced way. After speaking to the wonderful Anna Bottcher at Triumph about the Education Specialist Intern Program, I was encouraged to apply. I couldn’t have been happier when I found out that I got into the program.
As an Ed Specialist, I feel like I can make an impact in a more personalized way. In my role, I facilitate learning in small groups and through 1:1 work. I can have genuine conversations, which deepens the connection between my students and me over the years. I found that this role fits so well with my personality that I felt like I finally found my place in education.
What does equity in education look like to you?
Whenever I go to a conference or seminar hosted at a school in an affluent neighborhood, I look around and wish that my kids had access to the things that said school offers. To me, *equity looks like schools filled with Black and brown children having access to the best curriculum, facilities, and materials. Equity is having everything, including expectations for students to be at a higher level. I believe that systemic and collective reform is necessary to truly address the needs of countless students who don’t get the resources they deserve.
What is a lesson you’ve learned or advice you’ve received in your professional career that you’d like to impart to aspiring educators?
I would recommend watching the Ted Talk, “Every Kid Needs a Champion” by Rita Pierson – it has been my go-to whenever I need inspiration.