As the first REALITYPro cohort, we created this book to thank you for the investment you made in us, and ultimately, the students we serve as educators. While in Israel, we were inspired by the Hall of Names at Yad Vashem. In the work of social change, it can be easy to become numb to statistics, but the Hall of Names taught us the impact of hearing the stories and seeing the faces of individuals. The following book gives you a glimpse of the faces of your investment on multiple levels. On a direct level, you can see pictures of us in Israel. Indirectly, we are sharing with you pictures of students or projects from our work in education, with a short description of how your investment in us will impact our work. In this way, we hope this book will be a snapshot of your â€œInvestment Portfolioâ€? in us, the REALITYPro community. Just like these pictures cannot contain the depth and beauty of Israel, our short descriptions cannot fully capture the depths of gratitude. The experience was a catalyst in our lives-- spiritually, relationally, professionally, and personally. Thank you for inviting us into your community- both literally- at your home, and in the larger sense, within a lifelong network of fellow change-agents and friends.
With gratitude, REALITYPRO Cohort June 2013
naya bloom The REALITY PRO trip was truly one of the most powerful overall life and leadership experiences I have ever had. I came to the education reform movement in the very early years of Teach For America. Growing up as the daughter of two early Peace Corps volunteers I was raised with a strong sense of the importance of social justice; however I was drawn to Teach For America not only because of this sense of social justice but also because of the idea of MOVEMENT and collective movement building. Over the past 15 years, I have found the times of feeling part of a “movement” in the ed reform space to be few and far between. I left our Reality PRO experience fully re-energized by the collective sense of movement created together during our time together in Israel. We entered the time together as a group of people individually working towards change with identiies often strongly related to the organizations we represented. I felt we left our time together as a cohesive group of powerful indviduals COLLECTIVELY committed to change. I left feeling part of a MOVEMENT. For me—because of the power of the collective that we together created—our time in Israel re-defined HOPE, and POSSIBILITY.
My personal commitment leaving the trip -is to fully embrace my leadership style; ensure I am operating always as an empowered, thoughtful, generous leader; and ensure that I am doing everything in my power to create an alumni movement that everyone feels a part of, is judgement free, and fosters the values of equity and community.
By meeting people who are committed to the same ideals that I am, and by seeing in the most challenging circumstances that people are leading at all levels, I came back with a new energy for my work. The opportunity to reflect on why Iâ€™ve chosen this work was also deeply motivating because I see a purpose for my life. As a leader I re-commit to finding common ground between seemingly conflicting people and ideas so that we can address our differences from our shared aspirations.
At City Year, as a result of this trip, I want to spend more time helping our corps members develop their identity as leaders in an education context.
This is me driving ATV is with the Facilitator Leader, Naya. In the background is the other group facilitator, Rich Aung!
Juliet Kaye As a development staff member at Teach For America, I can feel disconnected from our work on the ground and my time in the classroom. That said, I left Israel - a place filled with those who live their lives through deep passion and belief - inspired to bring my love of classrooms, teachers and special education students closer to my day to day work. And by bribing what brought me to this work and continues to drive me to others, I hope to continue to discover the champions, like you Lynn, that make this all possible.
My trip to Israel has shifted my perspective on Israel, Jewish culture and my role in the education reform movement. It built confidence in me as I move forward in my career and further illustrated the need for community, humanity and energy in our education system.
A FAVORITE FROM THE TRIP!
CYLA 2012 at opening day. Awesome to see the corps members that I help recruit & hire!
MYMISSION STATEMENT <-- Thatâ€™s me in Israel!
I have wanted to go to Israel for my whole life, but I dont think I ever thought my dream would actually become a reality. For me, visiting Israel, and now returning to Chicago, has made me believe that anything is possible. I can dream big and make those dreams a reality. More importantly, my kids (like Martanisha and Erin in the picture) can too. I got the gift of dreaming big, and I cant wait to pass the dream on to them.
I built some amazing connections with education leaders across the country, re-examined my values, and called out commitments to work towards by 2014. In my personal life and in the education reform movement, I am excited to advocate and empower myself + others more actively, explore the Moses (my ability to set vision & direction) side of myself, seek out opportunities and relationships that honor my values, deepen my relationship with my partner, and focus on physical, spiritual and emotional energy work.
This experience was a breeze reigniting the coals of my passion for teaching. I’ve always known why I do what I do, but going into my fifth year in the classroom, it can admittedly get a little rote in the day-to-day. This journey has been one of exploration, rejuvenation and reflection, and it has only served to strengthen my resolve.
REALITY Pro has allowed me to reflect on my most essential values. Truly understanding who I am and the value I hold to be essential in my life and work, love, impacts my continued reflection, encourages me to take risks and ‘fail’, and ultimately to embrace diverse perspectives around me. This is ultimately leading me to truly valuing those involved in and committed to this movement and the unique perspectives they bring to this work.
*ATTEMPTING* to herd the sheep
ME IN ISRAEL!
TEACHING IN MY CLASSROOM!
STAFF RETREAT m!) e l a s eru J n I (
The REALITY experience opened up my eyes to values based leadership. Everything from exploring my core values with our facilitators to learning about the personal stories of others on the trip to digging deeper into my Jewish identity helped me begin the journey to explore who I want to be as a leader and why I want to continue fighting for better education. Knowing these aspects of myself will help me be a better advocate for kids and a more effective leader in the education reform community. ME & MY BROTHER BEN AT THE WESTERN WALL It was especially meaningful to have my brother on this trip as well as we connected with our Jewish roots together!
THE EXPERIENCE & ITS IMPACT ON ME <-- ATV RIDING IN Israel!
REALITY PRO helped me understand the Jewish people’s – my people’s – “underdog” narrative over the course of thousands of years. I now embrace this narrative as the inspirational and remarkable history of a people whose blood also runs through me. By being more in touch with my own “underdog” identity, I am better able to understand and connect with the millions of “underdog” children and families across the US who are seeking their own moments of redemption, acceptance, and freedom, just as the Jews have done time and time again.
WITH MY STUDENTS!
After the RealityPRO experience, I have deeper sense of where I come from, where I want to go, and who I am. The week was full of powerful questions - I now want to continue to develop my ability to ask profound questions of myself, of those around me, and of the world. As an educator, I now approach my work with a renewed and ongoing connection to my values as well as the inspiration to continue expanding my impact!
Campaign for Teacher Appreciation Week <-- First sight in Jerusalem The REALITY experience has given me the opportunity to deeply reflect on my own values and personal connection to creating educational equity in this country. I’m realizing that in my work at Teach For America, I’m in the position to give thousands of people across the country the opportunity to do the exact same thing and demonstrate their support for our work, if I can do a better job of finding out what they truly care about. This experience has been incredible for both my personal and professional development, and I’m excited to continue to build even stronger relationships with my fellow REALITY Pro participants and new relationships with other REALITY alumni.
My new understanding of different narratives will help me immensely as I work at the intersection of education and politics. Being able to understand others’ perspectives-- not just in the sense of seeking their opinions, but seeking their stories, their values and their overarching narratives -- will transform my efforts to unite different sides in the common cause of improving educational opportunities for all students.
melissa mayes The leadership reflections and experiences at REALITYPro made me realize I need to be embracing the influence and leadership that I have more within my organization- speaking up instead of shying away from that influence. In the past few weeks since coming home, I’ve used the momentum from this trip to present at a national conference, and I’m feeling empowered to keep using my voice. My husband Elliot and I, looking out on Jerusalem for the first time. We are so grateful to have been able to do this trip together, and this will shape the family we will build.
JERUSLAEM PHOTO OP!
At high school graduation with Jose, one of the Summer Search seniors I’ve worked with this year, as his College and Financial Aid advisors. After overcoming many personal, academic, and financial challenges, including losing his dad in junior year, he will be the first person in his family to go to college.
Halli Bayer My trip to Israel helped me to put the American movement for education reform in context and see that we are not alone in our struggles. In the future, I would like to work more closely with the education reformers that we met in Israel to share best practices. One immediate impact is that I have started having my team share their education narratives at their team meetings. I also lead a weekly education policy discussion group at work, and have incorporated regular sharing of our stories in our dialogue.
Selfie of me livin it up in Tel Aviv!
On this amazing journey, I realized the need for myself to pause and reflect on a regular basis. I committed to setting aside time on Shabbat to journal and reflect on the previous week, process my effectiveness towards reaching my personal and professional goals, and strengthen relationships with family, friends, and loved ones. This will help me be a happier, healthier, more vision-oriented leader, and will ensure I am a strong role model and coach for the preschool and kindergarten teachers I manage through Teach For America. Reflecting by the REFLECTIONS ON SPIDERMAN
Through my REALITY experience, I gained confidence in my ability to try new things (even things that fall squarely in the “weakness” category), to try out new ideas, and to try on new hats. I’m coming away from my time in Israel with a commitment to stretching myself, to actively experiment with the many possible definitions of leadership with which I might operate, and to abandon any rigid definitions of my strengths and weaknesses.
From my REALITY Pro experience, I will begin to contemplate more deeply the complexities constantly surrounding us in this line of work. After hearing from and speaking to so many fascinating people on this journey, I will now begin to seek out a multitude of alternative perspectives and open greater lines of communication with others in order to reach more sound and just conclusions. I am also looking forward to integrating Jewish values more fully into my daily life and career as a result of this life-changing experience.
ME AND NAYA :)
AT THE PRESIDENT’S CONFERENCE WITH MY SUMMER CAMP KIDS!
STUDENTS I VOLUNTEER WITH v
Reality Pro has not only inspired me to make a change in education, it has given me the tools, resources, and networks to make it happen. I am excited to see what the future holds for myself and our fellow Reality alum.
Melissa Arnold liberation
CM LEADERSHIP JOURNEY Our last night in Israel :(
I am stepping up and taking the lead in values based leadership development for Teach For America corps members in the Houston region. The attached picture is of a retreat that I facilitated in Houston, during which I was able to use a lot of my reflections and takeaways from REALITY to push corps members thinking about narratives and leadership. I also have so much more clarity on what my purpose in life is and am fully committed to researching and contributing new knowledge that works to end oppression in the US and abroad.
The opportunity to travel to Israel with the Reality experience was a once in a lifetime opportunity. It came at the perfect time for me, I had just finished graduate school and was knee deep in applying for jobs in the education reform sector. This experience allowed me to reconnect with the reasons that I decided to enter the field in the first place and how to have a larger impact as a leader. Thanks so much for this opportunity.
This experience had enabled me to be a more thoughtful and reflective leader. I am working to align my leadership more to my values in order to figure out what my unique contribution to education reform is.
Sean Holiday The 3 months leading up to the Reality Pro trip were the most challenging time in my principalship thus far. I had adopted a deficit mindset about my abilities, focusing obsessively on my weaknesses and denying the good I brought to my work. The Reality experience helped me see myself with a fairer perspective. I returned from the trip knowing that I do have something worthwhile to contribute to my school community, even as I continue to grow through the process.
AT THE WESTERN WALL MY SCHOOL PORTRAIT
WHAT A VIEW! HELEN & HER WORDS
I left Israel with confidence that my purpose in the pursuit of educational equity is strong. I also found clarity around what needs to be true in my life to fulfill my purpose to work toward improved teaching and learning in literacy for all students. As I enter another year of intense work in education, I am bringing a commitment to personal rest and rejuvenation so that I may have that same energy and passion for the work for years to come and bring my best self to students, families, teachers and our broader school community.
Geoffrey Roy clarity
MIKE Temblador identity
A Palestinian student said something that will forever be ingrained in my mind. She said “You need to take the identity of your friends or else you will never understand them.” Leaving Israel, I am hoping to be a facilitator of hope, friendship and collaboration.
ME AND ZEKE
MY LAST SESSION: In Oklahoma
Students creating “roller coasters” in a corps member’s physics lab in Houston
Me at the teacher’s college we visited in Israel
Because of my experience on REALITY Pro, I know two things: I have an expanded network of committed leaders in the the fight for equity, and that the narratives of individuals and communities impact the way we engage with one another. I am more fully equipped to contribute to my team’s success at Teach For America because of the clarity I’ve gained on the intersection of my own narrative and values.
one my last sessions was a session I did with a PTA and it was modeled after designed thinking. In short the method is to create lots of ideas across many lines of diversity. I am hoping that I can do more this with my community, teachers and students
In traveling to Israel with my fellow REALITY Pro participants, I met a lot of amazing people, who are currently contributing in many different ways to education reform. Without REALITY PRO, I may never have had the pleasure to meet any of them. Fortunately though, these colleagues will undoubtedly become people that I will share ideas and resources with for years to come.
We “Teach At Altitude” at Teach For America – Colorado! This slogan represents our belief that our most transformative teachers are the ones who lead from WHO they are; know deeply WHY they lead; know exactly WHAT they are working to achieve; and have a clear sense of HOW they will achieve it. My experience in Israel provided clarity on my own answers to those questions and taught me what sort of experiences and questions I should be asking of the teachers I support to help them become more clear on their own answers. I am eager to share my experiences with my corps members in a few short weeks and see the impact that will have on their students!
Thank you for your generosity to send me, and all of us, to Israel. The picture I’m providing is one that we took from Memphis’s (and TFA’s) first-ever regional Institute. As a member of our Leadership Team, my experience has helped me to learn who I am and what I stand for – and by doing so has helped me to feel empowered to distinctly shape the corps experience of our nearly 400 students supporting nearly 20,000 students in our city.
My experience in Israel struck me on many levels. Personally, it reminded me to continue to discover who I am at heart, and to stay true to those discoveries. Professionally, I returned convicted to the role I play in building our education reform community in Memphis by continuing to invest more citizens in our work and our kids, and by creating spaces for our corps members, alumni, staff, and donors to interact and share the energy and hope of our work.
Thank you for your investment in me and hopefully, in the city I now call home.
THE ST UDENT v S
Shay Levy Thank you, Lynn! The leadership skills we discussed on our trip will make me a better advocate for my students, so they can keep learning...and having fun doing it!
My students having fun!!
lisa klane Education is a crucial pillar that supports democracy. Adding the REALITY Pro experience to my toolbox will help me to continue striving to make sure we educate citizens in our country. My hope is that the work I do can support students who know what it means to be a citizen, know what democracy means, and who have the tools to uphold both of those ideals.
ZEEKE COHEN challenge
Cassie Potler The Reality Pro experience was truly life-changing for me. It came at a perfect transition in my life between teaching kindergarten and becoming the Assistant Director at an early childhood center. I feel rejuvenated and empowered in my leadership skills moving forward.
MY STUDENTS AT THE ZOO!
HE T T ME A E R N T WES L WAL
â€œThis trip made me realize the importance of openly engaging in difficult and challenging conversations. Since returning to the United States, I have pushed myself and my students to engage more openly in conversations about race, poverty, guns and other difficult topics. I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity I had to reflect on myself and my work.â€?
ME IN ISRAEL!
Dawnya at the D epartment of Education
After spending the week with REALITY Pro I am feeling urgent to ensure the job that I accept in my current job search is aligned with my values, allows me to take on my desired level of leadership, and also allows me to take the space for Shabbat that I need to reflect and recharge so I can continue to enact the social change I would like to see in the world. Your investment in me has also allowed me to pursue the professional development that I need to prepare/ provide me access to knowledge and skills needed to re-frame and change the way that Teach For America corps members are approaching their own biases before and during their classroom commitments. A SPECIAL DINNER IN ISRAEL :) v
alexandra kutler My REALITY experience gave me the opportunity to really reflect on my understanding of what it means to carry leadership qualities. In this space, I was able to renew my confidence in my own leadership style, and reflect on ways that my work can be complemented by others. I also found that I came home with a stronger sense of purpose and a deeper understanding of the kind of work Iâ€™d like to be doing with my life. Thank you for this opportunity and thank you for believing in each of us!
My wonderful reflection group.
Embracing my love for creating!
Jessica Wallenstein The REALITY trip provided an opportunity to hear multiple perspectives about Israelâ€™s educational, political and social challenges. This gave me a deep appreciation for the idea that working to truly understand multiple narratives is a prerequisite for improving education, especially in the divisive climate that surrounds policy reform in the US.
MY CLASSROOM! Me
el! a r Is
A Gratitude book for Lynn Schusterman