August – Alumni Connection

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August Alumni Connection 

Claire Cole

Vanguard alumna Claire Cole (‘08), is making strides in the field of education. This consultant-turned-teacher has known that she wanted to teach 7th grade since she herself was a 7th grader at Vanguard. She writes that “teachers like Mrs. Johnson, Mrs. Flowers, and Mrs. Johns showed me the impact an awesome teacher could have, and I was determined to do the same for my own students one day.” After graduating from Princeton University in 2012 with a degree in psychology, Cole is now pursuing a Masters in Teaching through the Relay Graduate School of Education while working as an assistant teacher.

Educational and Professional Background

“I went to Princeton knowing that I wanted to learn more about education, but there isn’t a formal education major at Princeton, so I chose psychology.” Cole loved it. She writes that “since psychology is all about studying how people learn and why people act the way that we do, it was very relevant for a future teacher! At the time, there was not an undergraduate organization uniting students around a passion for education, so a group of my friends and I got together and formed Students For Education Reform (SFER) in 2009. Over the next 5 years, SFER grew into a national non-profit with chapters at colleges and universities across the country.”

Click here to read more about the awesome organization: Students For Education Reform.

SFER was a huge learning experience for Cole. As an undergrad member and later a full-time staff member, she had to take on new challenges like hiring people, managing a team, and hosting conferences, which were opportunities that she could only have had in a start-up environment.

“I moved over to The Boston Consulting Group (BCG) to learn from the best about how to build and run an organization. I fell in love with consumer research, worked with mentors who showed me how the best teams function and learned about business across several different sectors. I was also able to see Dubai, Amsterdam, Oslo, Berlin, Prague, Budapest, Cusco/Macchu Picchu, Johannesburg, and more!”

IMG_0076By 2015, Cole felt like it was time to transition into the classroom. “I signed up to be a Teaching Resident with KIPP Houston Public Schools. I work as an assistant teacher in a charter school while also pursuing my graduate degree in teaching. I look forward to having my own 7th-grade reading classroom next year. I may even have my kids read The Odyssey, just like my seventh-grade class did with Mrs. Spain at Vanguard!”

When asked about her long-term goals Cole writes that, “at SFER, BCG, and KIPP, I’ve seen education policy issues from many different angles. I hope to take this combination of non-profit, private and public sector experience into a new role leading innovation in the education space.”

How did Vanguard prepare you and what is your advice for current students?

“One thing I really value about my Vanguard experience is that I was given the opportunity to try a lot of different things, even and especially things I wasn’t very good at. I’m not a gifted athlete, however, I was able to play on the girls basketball team and run cross-country. Now, I’m going to be the 7th-grade girls basketball coach at my school next year, and I still have a personal running practice. I wasn’t a very sophisticated writer, but I edited Liquid Paper (Vanguard’s student-run literary magazine). I still take writing classes in my free time, and encourage my own students to write and share their writing.”

“My experience at Vanguard taught me that it is so important to put yourself out there and try things, which you are not very good at, just for the sake of trying. You never know when you will happen across an undiscovered skill, and you will be a more interesting person because you took the risk.”

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