Getting to know the Teacher Policy Fellows: Damon Grant
June 3, 2013
In News Blog
GO’s Teacher Policy Fellowship is a yearlong, stipended opportunity for a small cohort of current Oakland teachers to Learn, Think, and Lead about the future of education. From a wide range of applicants, we selected 14 excellent teachers – men and women from a range of backgrounds and experience who teach at both district and charter schools.
To get to know each of the fellows better, and understand where they came from, we assigned the fellows the task of profiling one another. We will be running 1-2 profiles per week over the next few months. Here, United for Success Academy teacher Christi Carpenter profiles Oakland Unity High School teacher Damon Grant.
It’s clear from the first words out of her mouth that Damon Grant is a teacher who takes her job seriously.
“I want kids to understand the purpose of what we’re doing in the classroom. We’re there to prepare for college, and it’s my job to make sure they’re ready.”
Damon teaches at Unity High School, a charter school with approximately 230 students. “I always have a sense of urgency when I’m teaching. Our school has a college preparatory focus, and I know our students need every minute to get adequately prepared.”
Damon knows from where she speaks: she works with both incoming freshmen and graduating seniors.
“The difference between the freshmen and seniors is vast. With freshmen, it’s all about establishing expectations and getting them bought in to our systems. By the time they’re seniors, it’s nice to see the fruits of everyone’s labor. They’re motivated to work hard for college.”
She recalls how special it was in 2011 to watch a class, which she had worked with since they were in ninth grade, graduate.
Damon was first inspired to teach after reading “Savage Inequalities” (Kozol, 1992) in college. After learning the devastating conditions of some schools in U.S. cities, she felt compelled to do something to make a positive change. She became a teacher and sought to teach in an urban school.
She says happy accidents brought her to Unity High School, and that she loves being a part of a small, supportive school. Relationships with students are paramount to Damon, which is why she loves working with kids in daily advisory and why she coaches the girls basketball and volleyball teams.
As a teacher-leader, Damon’s passion is giving classroom teachers opportunities to grow. She shares, “They need to have a chance to be mentored, and then ultimately be mentors. Experienced teachers have so much to offer.”
As a GO Teacher Policy Fellow, Damon hopes to work on an initiative that would allow veteran teachers to continue working in the classroom, while working with administration to exert influence on a larger scale.