By Marilu Aguilar-Moreno
from Aspire’s Talent Team
This month’s spotlight is on Ruth Negash, Director of the New Teacher Development and Induction Program. Negash joined Aspire over a year ago, and prior to that, she held roles ranging from teacher, school leader, and, most recently, as a Director of Teacher Residency at Making Waves Academy.
Her passion for making a difference in the field of education was borne out of her experience as the daughter of immigrant parents. Negash shared, “Education was the guiding force that brought my parents to the United States [as they] were not fortunate enough to receive an education. I was taught that education was the most powerful weapon I would ever receive and that it was a key opportunity to become whoever and whatever [I] wanted.”
Under her direction, the New Teacher Development and Induction Program has expanded, serving 176 inductees at Aspire, and now, she talks about what drives her work and her experiences leading the program.
Tell me about yourself. Why did you decide to work in education?
I have always been excited by the opportunity to learn new things and get others excited about learning too. During my college years, I volunteered at various schools, organizations, and nonprofits to get a sense of my career pathway. Needless to say, my excitement for teaching and learning brought me to education. I understood that the educational system was complicated and far too often left students who looked like me behind. I wanted to be a part of a solution that lifted Black and Brown student voice and brilliance in the classroom.
As I think back and reflect on my educational experiences, it’s no wonder how I landed in education. I had great teachers that saw in me what I perhaps didn’t see in myself at the time. It was the teachers that looked like me that encouraged me to be me, it was teachers that motivated me to advocate for myself and my peers when I knew I should, it was teachers that told me that they knew I could do better and showed me how.
How long have you worked at Aspire and what do you like most about what you do and about working here?
This is my second year working at Aspire – I will make a full two years in July 2021. During my time at Aspire, I have had the opportunity to work with brilliant colleagues who put the needs of students first. The commitment to student achievement is what keeps me inspired and motivated to work at Aspire.
Can you talk about the New Teacher Development and Induction Program? What impact do you see it having on new teachers?
Aspire is fortunate enough to have an internal induction program that supports teachers with clearing their credentials. The Aspire Teacher Induction Program is a two-year mentoring program that supports the development of new teachers based on their individual needs. Teachers are matched with mentors that meet with them weekly to support their development and growth as a new teacher. Induction is designed to recognize the individual strengths and professional development needs of participating teachers, thus building upon the knowledge, skills, and abilities that each participating teacher brings to the classroom.
The Aspire program supports the demonstration and application of the California Standards for the Teaching Profession through its various components: collegial mentoring from an assigned support provider, ongoing development, curricular materials and training, and administrative assistance.
As part of the induction program, teachers submit evidence that displays their continuous growth while clearing their credentials. New teachers have consistently voiced the positive impact that their mentors have had on their teaching.
What change do you want to see in education?
I believe that the pandemic pushed us to think outside the box. It [re]taught us what we knew about education, and what needs to be revamped to serve all of our students. It has been amazing to witness the creativity, teamwork, and flexibility that all of our leaders and teachers have demonstrated during this time. I hope that we continue to look at education through a lens that allows us to continually reflect and adjust to the needs of our students at all times.
What is a lesson you’ve learned or advice you’ve received in your career that you’d like to impart on aspiring and practicing educators alike?
Be a lifelong learner. As a teacher and school leader I have always been encouraged (and encourage others) to learn from one another, our communities, and our students. I also believe it is important to attend as many professional development opportunities as possible. There is always room for improvement.