Jasmine McQuay, Leader U Fellow at Democracy Prep Harlem Elementary, took what some may call a nontraditional path to DPPS’ Leader U program. Jasmine began her career in education as a middle school math teacher in the South Bronx and later taught in Hoboken, New Jersey. Afterwards, she became a consultant for K-12 education all over the United States. She had the opportunity to work with all types of schools, including suburban and rural. She had actually been out of the classroom for several years when she was drawn again to schools and more specifically, Leader U.
The longer she was a consultant, the more she missed being in a school community and having close relationships with scholars where she could watch them grow over time. At that point, she began to consider returning to a position at a school. As Jasmine advanced through the application process, it became clearer to her that she wanted to be a part of this program.
“I loved the interview process,” said Jasmine. “I had to teach, I had to analyze data, and I had to give coaching feedback. There were so many different components to show you what this role would be like.”
As a Leader U Fellow, Jasmine has been supported in a variety of ways. She has weekly meetings with her school leader Mia Backon and her Leader U coach Ajaka Roth. She also knows that her leader and coach are always available for advice or as a sounding board. She truly feels she is a part of the leadership team and has received the support necessary to be successful in her role.
“Everyone is all in on making sure we are all on the same page about what is going on, what scholars are at risk, and what the next steps are for them,” said Jasmine. “We are all in this together. There’s never a time where you think, ‘Oh I didn’t really know what was happening.’”
When Jasmine was still doing consulting work, she also began working towards her doctoral degree in urban education. Equity for scholars became her passion. In her words: “How are we giving scholars what they need?” She has been able to share her passion for scholar equity with DPHE staff. Jasmine facilitated two professional development sessions for DPHE staff on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. She focused specifically on becoming a student of your students and recognizing personal biases.
She’s also been able to reflect on what type of school leader she wants to be.
“I want to be a leader who focuses on relationship building with parents and with scholars, and that being the heart of the school,” said Jasmine. “I feel that without relationships, kids cannot learn. If they don’t feel safe or trust the school community, they won’t learn because they don’t believe what you are saying or trust you.”
Jasmine is excited to continue growing as a school leader and looks forward to what next year holds. The application to apply to be in the next cohort of Leader U fellows opens in November. Find out more about the Leader U program here.