If our students and their families aren’t at the table, they’re on the table.
Daniel has lived in Minnesota almost his entire life. After graduating from Gustavus Adolphus College with a degree in sociology and anthropology, Daniel joined Teach For America as a sixth-grade math teacher at Warren County Middle School in North Carolina. While there, he raised his students’ state test scores to the point of closing the achievement gap between them and their wealthier peers, an accomplishment that landed him a spot as a finalist for Teach For America’s 2008 Sue Lehmann Excellence in Teaching Award.
During his second year in the classroom, Daniel was given the “crazy” (his words) opportunity to interview with Teach For America’s Founder and CEO Wendy Kopp to be the Founding Executive Director of Teach For America – Twin Cities. After establishing the foundation for the region in 2008, the first cohort of 40 teachers began in Twin Cities classrooms in 2009, and the organization grew to 100 teachers by 2011.
During his tenure with TFA, Daniel led a broad, bipartisan coalition of community stakeholders to push for alternative teacher certification legislation at the state capitol. After three years, one crushing defeat, and countless late nights at the capital, the bill passed in 2011 and Daniel came to MinnCAN partly because that victory—and the fight leading up to it—convinced him of the power of advocacy in ensuring all kids get the education they deserve.
I aspire to be like James Peck. Here's why:
James Peck was an activist who practiced nonviolent resistance in the Civil Rights movement (Peck also lived for a short time in Minneapolis). He is the only person who participated in both the Journey of Reconciliation in 1947 and the first Freedom Ride of 1961. Peck, who was white, demonstrated the powerful role that allies play in social justice movements. He had the choice to look the other way, but instead he risked his own life during the Freedom Rides to stand up for the rights of others. His story inspires me to use my own power and privilege to stand up for the rights of others. To whom much is given, much is expected.
Why I love my job:
I always say that if our students and their families aren’t at the table, they’re on the table. As a community, we have the opportunity to give voice to the thousands of Minnesota students who aren’t getting the educational opportunities they deserve. MinnCAN is playing a critical role in the education ecosystem that’s developing in this great state to ensure we don’t fail another generation of kids.
My connection to public schools:
I attended Minneapolis Public Schools from kindergarten through 12th grade, when I graduated from South High School (Go Tigers!). I eventually followed in the footsteps of my grandmother, who taught elementary school in rural Pennsylvania, by becoming a public school teacher myself. I’ve worked with more than 300 public school teachers, sat on the school board of Hiawatha Leadership Academy in south Minneapolis (the highest performing Title 1 public school in Minnesota), will be marrying (in September!) an employee of Minneapolis Public Schools, and will send my own kids to public schools one day.
What I'm bad at:
I’m a terrible planner. Take time to set a course or make a plan? Why? That’s just time wasted when you could be getting stuff done! Unsurprisingly, seeing Frank Partnoy’s book, "Wait, The Useful Art of Procrastination," made my day.
The image that represents why I work at 50CAN:
Nobody said getting to college is (or should be) easy. At the same time, many students in our state face hurdles as a result of their backgrounds that their peers don’t have to overcome. Our job is to remove some of those hurdles for our students so they have a shot of reaching the “finish line”: a college and career of their choosing.