In August, the turmoil at The Ethical Community Charter School (TECCS) over the ouster of former principal Marta Bergamini came to an end with the hiring of a new principal, Chloe Lewis. Lewis is a fourteen-year education veteran who has worked as a teacher, math supervisor, curriculum supervisor, vice-principal, and principal. Jersey City Times got a chance to ask her some questions about her background, her teaching philosophy and the future of the school.
1) What motivated you to become an educator?
At a young age, I always knew I wanted to become an educator because I wanted to work with children. When I was in high school, I had a principal that was a true inspiration to me. I also had a professor in college, who created a class that made me love learning. My high school principal and my college professor are two of the major reasons why I pursued a career in education. Their ability to guide students, develop rapport, their fairness, and sense of justice made me aspire to bring these things into my own classroom and school as a leader.
2) In your career as an educator prior to TECCS, what have you found to be most challenging and how did you try to meet that challenge?
In my career as an educator prior to TECCS, I found that the greatest challenge that I have faced was the fight to eliminate inequity. One way in which I try to meet this challenge is to remove any barriers that would potentially cause the inequity. Equity does not mean equality; equity simply means that each child receives exactly what is needed in order to succeed. The battle for equity is what drives my passion as an educator. There are so many students whose only opportunity at a better life is to receive the quality education that they deserve. I’m hopeful that we will continue to provide that opportunity at TECCS.
3) If you were asked to pick the three most important factors that go into a student’s success, what would they be?
I believe the three most important factors that go into a student’s success are:
1) A positive school environment that includes a positive school culture and classroom practices that continually support positive relationships; physical and emotional safety, including identity safety; and a sense of belonging and purpose.
2) Support for the intentional development of social and emotional skills. These skills should include self-regulation, intrapersonal awareness, interpersonal skills, growth mindset and support resilience. The support for behavior should be restorative and enable students to learn how to collaborate, resolve conflict and continue to contribute to the community.
3) Providing real world connections with students which are extremely valuable. When there is a personal connection to the work, students are more willing to invest their time and energy to the task. Students should be met at their current level and provided with work that is challenging (according to their level of learning), and teachers should provide differentiation to meet the needs of all learners.
4) You’ve taken over the reigns from a beloved leader in Marta Bergamini. Where, if at all, do you see making changes in how she approached the job both from the perspective of an educator or administrator?
Although I am taking over the reigns of a beloved leader, I am bringing my own experience and leadership style. I take great pride in building positive relationships with the staff, families and students; I will continue to rebuild our school culture, strengthen our student achievement, and ensure that our ethics mission is at the core of our decision making process. Currently, my focus is to continue to strengthen our remote learning program and prepare to safely open school for all TECCS families and staff.
5) What are some of the challenges and/or opportunities specific to TECCS that you’d like to address going forward?
Some of the opportunities specific to TECCS that I would like to address going forward would be to continue to increase our ethics mission through various programs. I would like to continue to work with our community at large, build successful partnerships, and proceed with connecting our curriculum to real world experiences.