Collaboration, Cooperation and Teamwork: One Teacher’s Experience At Success Academy

Every afternoon, after a long but satisfying day teaching third grade at Success Academy Bed-Stuy 2, Lizz Tetu sits down with five colleagues and her principal for their daily debrief. Each teacher comes with a pile of student work and identifies the concepts their scholars had struggled with that day – with the shared goal of finding better ways to present the challenging material.

This sort of teamwork, engagement, and support is a hallmark of Success Academy Charter Schools, where Lizz, a 2010 NYU graduate, has worked for five years – but has taught for only one semester. The support she receives from her fellow teachers and her principal is critical to her development as a professional. 

One example of that teamwork is the daily debrief. At one recent Monday meeting, Lizz and her colleagues realized they had a common roadblock — their students were having trouble finding the deeper meaning of a poem they had been assigned. Said Lizz,  “As a team, we looked ahead at the next day’s lesson and asked some tough questions – how could we approach the material differently to help scholars improve their poetry reading skills? We’re so used to troubleshooting comprehension issues that it took only about 15 minutes to create a concrete action plan that addressed the problem.”

This level of support from colleagues, and the constant feedback and encouragement Lizz receives from her principal, has enabled her to grow as a classroom teacher – a job that was not her first career choice.

After studying education theory and policy at NYU, Lizz decided not to go into teaching. Instead, she accepted a position on Success Academy’s school operations team — learning the business side of running a school and dealing with issues ranging from student health and enrollment processing to field trip coordination and communication with parents.

Later, Lizz transitioned to the Student Achievement Team, where she learned to evaluate student data, identify scholars in need of special education services, and solve schoolwide problems alongside other school leaders.

But after four years working at schools in Harlem and the Bronx, Lizz found herself “itching to get into the classroom.”

As a graduate of NYU’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study — which encourages cross-disciplinary thinking — Lizz is adept at applying the lessons learned in one role to the challenges of the next.

“Having been a part of those teams has proven invaluable to the work I do as a teacher. I knew how to think critically about student work, but now I get to implement changes and problem-solve on my feet, in front of our scholars,” Lizz said.

Those critical thinking and problem solving skills are essential elements of quality teaching, as are support from school leaders and opportunities for professional advancement.  

“As I learn and grow as a teacher, I continue to receive support from my school principal, who meets with me and observes my teaching every week. Also, our schools all have weekly professional development sessions,” said Lizz. “I would encourage anyone who’s passionate about social justice and ready to learn to apply to Success Academy – there’s such a sense of teamwork here, and everyone shares the common goal of ensuring our scholars receive the best possible education.”

Recognized nationally for its innovative education reform efforts, Success Academy is a network of 32 New York City charter schools (and counting) that currently serves scholars in kindergarten through ninth grade. It counts among its faculty and staff a large number of New York University alumni. For more information about employment opportunities, visit http://www.SuccessCareers.org (and check out these documentaries: Waiting for Superman and The Lottery).

Lizz Tetu is a third grade teacher at Success Academy Bed-Stuy 2 in Brooklyn. She graduated from NYU’s Gallatin School of Individualized Studies, where she studied education policy and music.  During her time at NYU, Lizz worked as a student ambassador for the NYU undergraduate admissions office and as an office assistant at the NYU Steinhardt Music Department. Lizz has spent the past five years working for Success Academy Charter Schools. She received her Master of Science in childhood education and special education from Touro College.

Interested in joining Lizz at Success Academy?  Apply for the Success Academy Summer 2015 Teaching Fellows Program here!