GSE’s Partnership Leaders Empower the Next Generation of Social Justice Educators

“Having a Rutgers GSE Partnership Leader is a rare gift. It is not often that a school district has a point person who directly liaisons between the schools and the university. Our Partnership Leader—Dr. Kedra Gamble—is very visible, supportive, and an amazing resource to help our future teachers get a better understanding of their place in the school community,” stated Dr. Scott Taylor, Superintendent of Highland Park School District. “She has learned about Highland Park–knows our values and expectations and can impart those to student teachers. The partnership has led to the district hiring a number of GSE students who have turned out to be phenomenal teachers in our district.”

Partnership Leaders are the lynchpin of the GSE Community School Partnership Network (GSE-CSPN), according to Dr. Nora Hyland, Associate Dean & Faculty Director of Teacher Education at GSE.  GSE-CSPN is an important component of the GSE’s Urban Social Justice Teacher Education Program. It is a select network of seven urban school districts that partner with the GSE to support the education of P-12 students and advance the practice of high quality teaching and learning for pre-service teachers.

“Partnership Leaders build and develop our relationship with district personnel, identify cooperating teachers to work with our students, and also work with the districts on meeting their specific needs,” explained Hyland.  “They are also leaders—envisioning and inventing ways in which educator preparation programs, school districts, and communities can work together to both prepare excellent teachers for urban schools and to create outstanding opportunities for the P-12 students in urban schools.”

The GSE’s commitment to equity in education is what attracted Dr. Kedra Gamble to the role of Partnership Leader. “We know that although urban districts are high needs communities, they are usually under-resourced, and it’s empowering to be able to change that with the GSE’s commitment to prepare educators with a social justice focus,” stated Gamble. “It is also empowering to help my students realize that urban communities have many strengths – families who are passionate about their children and their education, and children who have a real hunger for learning.”

Dr. Maqueda Randall-Weeks is the Partnership Leader working with North Brunswick Township Public Schools. Randall-Weeks emphasizes that engaged and knowledgeable teachers are key to increased student achievement. “It is critical for students to translate theory into practice with clinical experience. The most rewarding aspect of my work is helping students bridge the gap between research, practice, and policy in education,” stated Randall-Weeks.

Dr. Kisha Porcher, the Partnership Leader for the New Brunswick Public Schools (NBPS), always knew that she wanted to pursue a career in urban education, as she is a product of urban education herself. In her first year as an educator, she noticed that most teachers left urban schools shortly after joining. She realized that there were a lot of gaps in teacher preparation. She wanted to address that gap and this led her to GSE. “I enjoy being an integral part of the village needed to prepare great educators. I teach our students to advocate for their students and have an asset not deficit mindset when working with diverse communities,” stated Porcher.  She also works to connect administrators and teachers at NBPS to professional development opportunities at Rutgers.

Partnership Leader Lisa Knox was a Principal in Newark Public Schools before she decided to pursue a career in higher education. “Our students will leave us and impact the lives of many students in their school districts. Working to shape the next generation of education leaders is both gratifying and very intense,” stated Knox. “The most rewarding aspect of my work is when our students understand that we all have biases and when I am able to help them shift those biases so that they can help their students reach their potential.” In addition to working with GSE pre-service teachers, Knox also worked to develop strategic plans to focus on the needs for each of the schools that she works with in Franklin.

Daniel Loughran, Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction at Franklin Township Public Schools underscored the aligned missions of GSE and FTPS. “We are a large and diverse district, and we require teachers who are committed to advancing equity in education. The partnership allows student teachers placed here get experience working in the field, and helps our teachers learn new and innovative practices in education,” Loughran affirmed. “Partnership Leaders go above and beyond what is expected and are really invested in meeting the mission of both the GSE and our school district.”

This year, Tasha Austin, Leslie Calabrese, and Dr. Michelle Macchia joined the ranks of the Partnership Leaders’ team serving the school districts in Bound Brook, Neptune, and Rahway respectively.