Five questions for Jesse Solomon

Jesse Solomon is the executive director of BPE. For the past 30 years, BPE has devised solutions to the toughest challenges faced by Boston’s students and teachers by weaving together expertise in teacher training and school development. Through its nationally recognized and replicated Boston Teacher Residency program, BPE has prepared over 500 teachers for Boston’s public schools.

What was your first role working in education?
When I was 8, I posted a flier in the neighborhood grocery store offering to lead classes in pond biology with my microscope. Unfortunately no one signed up – so not sure that counts as my first role.

When I was 15, I had my first paid education role – teaching computer classes to sixth graders.

My first full-time job after college was as a middle school teacher teaching math, reading, writing and history to a combined seventh and eighth grade class – even though my licensure was for high school math.

What is one pivotal moment in your career in educator preparation that left a positive impact on you or others?
I’m not sure I can attest to impact on others. As for me … In the past few years, there have been several young people – whom I had taught when they were high school students in Boston – come through the Boston Teacher Residency program. Watching them decide to become teachers and work hard to prepare, and then getting to see them in classrooms of their own working with students from their neighborhoods, has been quite rewarding.

Why did you decide to join Deans for Impact?
I joined Deans for Impact because the current way in which we prepare teachers – as a field – falls woefully short of what is needed IF we are to take seriously the idea that every student deserves a great education. And if all really means all.

I don’t think the solution rests solely on the teacher-preparation side. For example, most schools are not set up to enable all children to learn at high levels. And most schools are not set up to enable all teachers to develop and excel. So we will have to work closely with schools, school districts and communities. But teacher-preparation institutions can be a much more proactive and forward-thinking lever in this change. To address these challenges, BPE runs Teaching Academies. Modeled after teaching hospitals, Teaching Academies are intentional professional communities in which “learning teaching” is central to the work of all adults, including aspiring teachers.

What most excites you about the opportunity to transform the field of educator preparation in the years ahead?
I think there is an increasing confluence of thinking and research on what works in teacher preparation. There are still a number of structural, financial and policy objectives ahead of us. I am excited about the potential for a variety of teacher educators and teacher-education programs to come together to build the field.

What is one surprising thing that everyone should know about the program you lead?
I don’t know if it is surprising – but it is important to us that when we started BTR in 2003 we set the goal that at least half of every cohort would be people of color. And we have always met that goal. I’m not sure we knew how we would do that, but it has been very helpful to us to have that target guiding our actions. And the impact is significant – both on the kinds of conversations and work that can be done by the cohort, as they take on weighty issues of modern schooling, and more importantly on the students they teach.

Editor’s Note: This post is part of an ongoing series featuring Q&As with all the member deans of Deans for Impact.

Jesse Solomon

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