Tag Archives: education

alysse is going to be a teacher!

“I don’t have a passion!” I remember whining to my mom from the kitchen table.

I was 17 years old, applying for colleges and attempting to pick a path for essentially the rest of my life. (LOL about the passion thing; I may have overcompensated since then.) Knowing how much I love people and enjoy writing, 17-year-old Alysse did a very nice service to 27-year-old Alysse and picked journalism. In journalism school, I met Kate, honed very handy researching and reporting skills, and gained experience with big assignments and tight deadlines—I really couldn’t ask for more. 

We both worked in magazines for several years during and after college, grew professionally, moved into our first adult apartments, and quickly wanted more from our jobs—in different directions. In the years I spent at Reader’s Digest, my first post-college gig, I found the time and freedom to figure out where all my passions—education, environment, social justice, people, animals, and more—intersected.

Getting to work on behalf of a movement I love with PEOPLE I love (like my dad here!) has been such a gift.

Getting to work on behalf of a movement I love with PEOPLE I love (like my dad here!) has been such a gift.

Lightbulb moment: The food system! Since that epiphany, I’ve hustled non-stop to help build a community-based, socially just, ecologically sustainable, nutritious food system for all—starting in my beloved Milwaukee, at Victory Garden Initiative.

But a simmering energy has been the undercurrent of nearly every job I’ve had, and over time it started to come to my attention with more and more clarity. I thought frequently of something I learned from Lisa at Sister Pie: Figure out the basic action that makes you happy, and build your career around that. All along, the thing I have been seeking is spending my days teaching kids. Challenging kids, sweet kids, struggling kids, goofy kids, all the kids. And what better way to influence the future than care for, educate and empower the pint-size people who are going to create it? There are nearly 80,000 children in Milwaukee Public Schools—80,000!!!—so why not pour as much positivity, resources and love as we can into a massive institution that will actually, literally, create our future?

I am extremely excited to share that I will be starting a certificate-to-Master’s teaching program at Cardinal Stritch University in Milwaukee this August. I’ll be a teacher in a year in a half, then I can take a few final credits to earn my Master’s. From then on, you may call me Master Alysse. But just Alysse is okay right now. Continue reading

meet nayla: revolutionizing education in milwaukee (escuela verde series 02)

Nayla Bezares 02

How Escuela Verde works: They have a lot of open project spaces in their schedule, and students complete projects to earn credit to advance from one grade to another. If you’re a student who wants to go to medical school, for example, there’s a medical workshop where they bring in professionals from the community.

Kate and I were so pumped to feature Joey Zocher and Escuela Verde, we decided to turn her story and others’ into a series. Please check back over the next few weeks for more Q&A’s with the advisers, educators and overall awesome humans who staff Escuela Verde.

Nayla Bezares, 28, has been an adviser at EV for 5 months.

“My dream was to work for the bad guys and change their perspective,” says Nayla. Born and raised in Puerto Rico, she always knew she wanted to save the world. Now, Nayla’s working with the Good Guys, I’d say, but she got there in a roundabout way.

Nayla and I met at one of our favorite places in Milwaukee—Outpost Natural Foods—to talk about dreams, education, and yes, trying to change the bad guys to change the world.  Continue reading

meet joey: revolutionizing education in milwaukee (escuela verde series 01)

Three years ago, I made a list of my personal heroes. I was on a quest to pave a path that melded my skills with my passions and my possibilities, and these people were true inspiration.

Joey, her mentor, and a group of teachers came together to start Escuela Verde as a team, under the umbrella created by the trailblazing TransCenter for Youth.

Joey, her mentor, and a group of teachers came together to start Escuela Verde as a team, under the umbrella created by the trailblazing TransCenter for Youth.

Then I made a list of my core values and drew little maps of potential professional paths I could create for myself, including things like starting a farm, going to grad school, moving to places I’ve never even visited, and—this is great!—working at Victory Garden Initiative! I just found the little notebook I wrote all my dreams and plans in, and I don’t really remember writing that, but it came true. I also researched the best educational programs and companies to work for, compared my strengths and weaknesses, and considered the characteristics and careers of those I looked up to most.

Now fast forward to today, and I really do feel like I’m living the values I listed while I take on the best parts of those paths I drew. (However, I laughed out loud when I found my weakness list and realized most of them hadn’t changed. Note to self: Work. On. Those!)

I also happen to work for one of the women on my hero list—and that dang list just won’t stop growing. Who would be on yours?

Settle in for a good one; Joey’s my newest addition. Continue reading

meet melissa: milwaukee teacher, leader, community creator part 2

Here are Melissa, my roommate Jessica, me and Kate at our first People With Panache party! This Thursday, from 6-8, we're having another celebration of People With Panache at Beauty & Brawn Art Gallery and Think Space. You're invited! :)

Here are Melissa, my roommate Jessica, me and Kate at our first People With Panache party! This Thursday, from 6-8, we’re having another celebration of People With Panache at Beauty & Brawn Art Gallery and Think Space. You’re invited! :)

“I have this desire to create the best world for children,” Melissa Pallin says.

This vision rings so true to me, too. Growing up with a grandma who ran a daycare with me as her little sidekick, a mom and dad who were parental figures way before I was born, and a toy box full of dolls I called my “kids,” I’ve always loved children, even when I was one. Now, at work, I get to write grants for programs that provide children with education about growing food, eating healthfully and working as a team—and because we’re so small and connected, I also sometimes get to work with the kids, too. It’s a great blend of my skills and passions, something I think most of us strive for. Melissa has also found a way to lead a passion-driven life—as we saw in last week’s post. I hope you met Melissa already but if not, she’s a perpetual student, teacher, and creator of a better, brighter future for Milwaukee’s children.

Melissa Pallin, 29, established Summer of Learning in the City of Milwaukee, an 8-week summer education program featuring a 5-to-1 student-teacher ratio, Montessori methods and real-world experiences with the City of Milwaukee as the classroom. It was precipitated by the facts that (a) more than half the achievement gap between higher- and lower-income youth can be attributed to lack of access to summer learning and (b) most students lose about two months of their grade-level math skills over the summer, but lower-income students also lose more than two months in reading—while their higher-income peers actually make gains.

Melissa also created Milwaukee Teacher SPAce, a hub of teacher enrichment, connection and support in a spa-like atmosphere. Membership itself comes with collaborative open workshops, health and wellness opportunities, and more for teachers to feel supported and cared for. Melissa also sets up Teacher SPAces in schools themselves to catalyze collaboration, health and wellness through workshops, spa sessions, and even parent education retreats. Finally, Melissa works to make satellite SPAces in businesses and other community resources, featuring programming the first Tuesday of every month, bringing teachers, parents and children out into local businesses. Continue reading

meet melissa: milwaukee teacher, leader, community creator

Melissa’s goal: Connect the whole city to make dramatic change in education. “Teachers are community creators, designers, talent developers, and more,” she says, and the list goes on!

Melissa’s goal: Connect the whole city to make dramatic change in education. “Teachers are community creators, designers, talent developers, and more,” she says, and the list goes on!

Close your eyes (Okay, not actually—it’s really hard to read that way). Breathe in the sweet, vanilla-tinged smell of chocolate-chip cookies in the oven. Imagine the feeling of the warmest late-summer breeze on your skin. Let yourself get mesmerized by the image of a lake dazzling in the last golden glimmers of sunset. All those sparkly, warm, happy, almost-as-good-as-the-best hug feelings are my best attempt at describing what it feels like when you’re around Melissa Pallin. (She’s even sweeter than this pie I’m eating—and as you know, I freakin’ LOVE. PIE.)

During the day, Melissa, 29, is a teacher at Highland Community School, a Montessori school part of the Milwaukee Public School system. She also founded and runs Milwaukee Teacher SPAce and Milwaukee Summer of Learning (SOL), which take up her nights and summers. She is incredibly sunshiny, exuberantly enthusiastic, and I think all who meet her would agree: Melissa was born to work with children. Continue reading

meet monique: milwaukee ph.d.-to-be

Monique has worked hard to be fully funded through her entire collegiate career, which gave her the spaces and time she needed to study, read, research and organize. “I’ve been able to find opportunities that nurtured passions but also put food on table,” Monique says. This woman is an inspiration.

Monique has worked hard to be fully funded through her entire collegiate career, which gave her the space and time she needed to study, read, research and organize. “I’ve been able to find opportunities that nurtured passions but also put food on the table,” Monique says. This woman is an inspiration.

Monique Liston is power and light. I don’t really know how else to say it without getting into corny territory.

She has a gift for taking seemingly insurmountable problems and bringing them down to earth; while some people suggest I share a few traits with the Energizer bunny, Monique’s energy is passionate, unrelenting, focused and true. Kate and I are grateful for this blog to give us a reason to sit down with people like her.

I first got to soak up some of Monique’s awesomeness at the most memorable session I’ve attended at the Nonprofit Center of Milwaukee: Toward a Dignity-Based Framework for Serving Boys and Men of Color. Monique and Dr. Decoteau Irby, the assistant professor leading the project, presented a workshop that brought in nonprofit organizations to talk frankly about race, dignity and opportunity. The duo is creating a scale to measure dignity, especially when it comes to working with boys and men of color.

Monique graduated with her Master’s in Public Administration from University of Delaware and returned afterward to where she was born and raised: Milwaukee. Her first job back was Project Assistant at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Women’s Resource Center. She then moved on to UW-Whitewater to teach in the Department of Women’s and Gender Studies, returned to UW-Milwaukee to be Assistant Director of the Resource Center, and is now a research assistant with Dr. Irby at the Research Center for Urban Education and Leadership Development. She also does consulting on similar work—and during all of this, she has been pursuing her Ph.D. in urban education and leadership development since 2011. She plans to finish by fall 2016. Continue reading

meet jazz: alternative agriculture advocate in columbus

Whenever new friends discover our blog for the first time, they invariably ask: How do you find these people?

Jazz Planting a Tree

How does Jazz stay disciplined being back in school full time? “Being my own supervisor, all my time is my own, and I pretty much work during the day like a normal person,” she says. “I work from home, so I’m eating constantly.” I feel ya, Jazz.

Here’s one story: Back in 2012, I was working for Reader’s Digest as a copy editor. I loved my team (like Deb!), but I was trying to figure out how to unite my passions for the environment, health, animal welfare, social justice and community into the next step of my career. The food system was the place I thought I could blend all those things and use my skills to make a difference, so I reached out to Jazz Glastra about Victory Garden Initiative’s (VGI) Food Leader Certificate Program. On a chilly winter night, she met me in the Saint’s Snug at County Clare Irish Pub in Milwaukee, which will forever hold a special place in my heart. Jazz told me all about how I’d learn to grow food, organize groups of people, and make a difference starting in my own community. I signed up for the program the next day.

Two and a half years later, I’m now working full-time at VGI, and Jazz has moved on to pursue her Master’s of Science in Environment and Natural Resources with a specialization in Rural Sociology at the Ohio State University. I miss her more or less constantly, so I’m so glad to share part of her story with you.

Jazz went to high school in an agricultural area of Washington state and hated it—the FFA kids in their big trucks blared country music and made it seem like farming was about not caring. After graduation, she went off to Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio, planning to get into environmental action or law—until she arrived. At Kenyon, Jazz totally fell in love with religious studies and became disillusioned with the policy world. Before she veered too far, though, she started her first farming internship at an organic farm in Ohio during her sophomore year. It was there that she became intrigued with agriculture and the local food movement. Continue reading

meet liz: chicago professor, milwaukee resident, passionate writer

Liz has her undergraduate degree in history, and her Ph.D in 19th and 20th century American history with minors in public history and women and gender.

Liz has her undergraduate degree in history, and her Ph.D. in 19th and 20th century American history with minors in public history and women and gender.

Liz Matelski teaches American pluralism and history of sexuality at Loyola University Chicago. While she’s concentrating on turning her dissertation into a full-blown book this summer, I got to spend an evening with her Continue reading