While at GW, Julia King, ESIA BA ’08, took a class on social justice and learned about institutionalized disparities in the U.S. educational system – what Jonathan Kozol called ‘savage inequalities’ – based on wealth.
Through the course, King learned that although the “fix” to poverty must be multi-faceted, ensuring that every child has access to excellent teachers is a critical component to leveling the field.
King graduated in 2008, and, inspired by what she had learned, joined Teach For America (TFA). She says that her decision to join TFA was largely impacted by her experience at GW.
“GW does a really good job of instilling the value of fighting for what you believe in and jumping into the action, as evidenced by the many internships that undergraduates take on,” King says.
“There is no denying that when you go to GW, you’re a part of something much bigger than yourself. You’re living in the nation’s capital, and a lot of your professors work for the government, at think tanks, or at big organizations. I think that’s empowering, and I found it personally very motivating and intellectually stimulating.”
King was assigned to a 3rd grade classroom in Gary, Indiana. Her plan was ambitious – for 100% of her students to learn more than a year’s worth of material over the course of the academic calendar and to create a culture focused on civic engagement.
“I wanted my students to see themselves as integral parts of their community and to feel obligated and able to positively influence each other and their world (this probably sounds very familiar to GW alumni…),” says King.
Early on, King realized that another GW experience had also prepared her to lead a classroom: her term as president of Alpha Phi. “As president, I learned to build relationships, set big goals and rally people around them. Both settings required me to move people toward measurable goals and a shared vision,” she says.
Ultimately, King’s students were incredibly successful and she was honored with the Sue Lehmann Excellence in Teaching Award, which recognizes extraordinary second-year teachers in urban and rural public schools. The award is given to one Elementary School TFA teacher in the country every year.
Like many TFA corps members, King’s original plan was to spend two years contributing to the program and then to pursue a profession in a field related to her undergraduate studies. It was during a week of interviews toward the end of her commitment that she realized that what she thought was a temporary commitment with TFA was actually the beginning of her career.
King was offered a job with DC Prep*, where she has been for the past three years, teaching reading to 5th-grade students and Math to 5th- and 7th-grade students. This fall, she will also become a school leader when she moves to the role of assistant principal role DC Prep’s new Benning Middle Campus (which opens in the fall).
“I am a teacher and I haven’t looked back,” King says. “This year, I was honored to be named the DC Teacher of the Year – allowing me to spotlight my students, school, and philosophy that classroom culture and character education are the foundation to transformational change in education.”
King is planning to attend her 5-year Reunion Celebration on September 28, during Alumni Weekend 2013. “I am excited to see my classmates and hear how everyone is using their GW education to make a difference in their community.”
You can catch up with King and other Class of 2008 Colonials at Alumni Weekend 2013!
*DC Prep is the highest-performing network of free, open enrollment, public charter schools in the nation’s capital serving preschool through 8th grade students in traditionally underserved neighborhoods of the city.