A Progressive Move by Progress High School
Progress High School doesn’t take its name for granted. This year they started an initiative where he students interview teachers for hire either in a group or with a teacher. The students have questions prepared and throw out scenarios to see how a teacher would handle that situation. Then the students have a debriefing with administration.
“This whole summer we’ve hired 15 teachers, and we haven’t hired one teacher the students didn’t recommend. The students are really consistent with what they are looking for in a teacher and they ask really good questions,” said Assistant Principal Diana Rendon.
Ms. Rendon came to Progress High School 5 years ago. She was a Social Studies teacher the first 3 years, then became a full-time coordinator for a year. Last year was her first year as an Assistant Principal. “It really is a wonderful place to work, to come to school, to call home. I’ve been coming to this building since I was 5 years old I was in the summer camp that they had here for tennis and when I was 10 years old. I was in karate classes here. Then when I was about 16 or 17 I worked for St. Nicks Alliance’s Beacon program throughout High School and College. It’s a wonderful place. It really is a community school. St. Nicks Alliance still has their Summer Camp here that I went to 30 years ago. Kids really grow up in this building.”
Diana Rendon also has strong roots in the neighborhood. She was a student at MS 126 and then became a teacher there. She taught there for five years before she transferred to Progress High School.
Having faculty be part of the neighborhood is an important criterion for the students when interviewing teachers to be hired. Mark had mentioned they turned down an applicant that lived in Long Island because they prefer faculty to be nearer to the area as they can relate to them better.
“On top of how well they teach we look for a personality and how they can connect to us,” said Mark
How do the students feel about having a significant position in the hiring process?
Brian: It makes me feel important that I have a say and be a part of something to make Progress grow so well. To bring in teachers that could better the education that we’d be given. Why wouldn’t I want that?
John: It’s good to do this because we have a different opinion. If the teachers feel good about the person they’ll send them to us and it’s like a second opinion. Say a teacher liked the person and we didn’t — we could change it up or speak about it. Because it’s also what the student wants too, a connection with the teacher. They could be a good person with a good degree and good education but if they don’t connect to the student then how we gonna learn?
Ethan: I like it and not all the schools have this opportunity. This school is made for us to learn and grow. If it’s only based on adults – just ‘cause they grew up don’t mean that they know what we’re going through and all that. So there is a need for two different voices
Assistant Principal Rendon already senses a shift in the potential teacher hires. “Teachers really want to teach here.” She mentions the teachers that interviewed when called (or when they call back) say they’ve been holding off on offers from other schools waiting for Progress High School to make an offer. She thinks it’s because of “the feeling they get when the students are included in making the decisions. When you are a teacher, you are coming in with a lot of motivation and you’re looking to change the world that’s what you’re looking for.”