Rachael Uggla, a former high school teacher, is a familiar name around New Classrooms. For many, seeing her name appear in their inboxes each week is the operational glue that connects employees across the country. As Deputy Director of Site Operations, Rachael brings to the job a killer combination of program expertise and the keen ability to build strong systems across our portfolio of schools. We sat with her to learn more about her work.
Why do you work in education?
RU: When I was younger, I never thought that I would be working in education! When considering what field to go into, becoming a teacher gave me the opportunity to actually do something about one of the issues that was important to me. Teaching is an amazing first job to have as a professional. Whether it is your first year in the classroom or your 20th, regardless of your experience, you are still responsible for teaching the students in your classroom. Once I saw what kind of impact education could have, it was tough to leave.
What do you geek out over at work?
RU: I tend to geek out over school schedules. Math class in Teach to One is a lot different than typical math class and I work with schools ahead of time to prepare for the shift. Unlike more traditional math classes, TTO teachers work together across each grade and teach all students during the same block of time. Getting this to work requires a lot of finessing because it affects other subjects and teacher assignments. It has to take into account differences in planning time and what kinds of initiatives are built into the school day. Each school is different and getting them to work is a bit like a puzzle, with the added challenge that you’re often missing some of the pieces. It’s such a fun challenge and it’s so interesting to see what kind of creative solutions we can create.
What are you most proud of?
RU: I’m most proud of a weekly email I send out to our field teams. It has significantly helped streamline communications between employees in the field and our central office. When you have schools across the country and a central team based in NYC, it’s easy to fall into patterns where people feel like they are working in separate spheres even as we’re all working towards the same goals. I like to think that the weekly digest is a regular reminder that these different teams are not so separate after all. It allows for there to be a forum to ask questions, share information, and communicate specific actions that are needed. It’s also helped provide our remote field teams have all of this information consolidated so that it’s all in one place and coming at a predictable time.
What have you learned since joining New Classrooms?
RU: When I first started, I assumed that most of our partner schools would be similar since they all shared a common desire to embrace an innovative approach to math. As I visited more schools and got to know each community, I realized that was not the case. I’ve come to appreciate all of the different reasons that schools have for wanting to try something new.
It’s also been fascinating to see how an organization grows over time from start-up to scale. It’s interesting to see which aspects of our approach and organization we have held onto since the beginning and which ones have had to evolve. There was something so exciting about a being a part of a small team that was churning out work at ridiculous rates. Now, years later, it’s been just as fun being part of a larger team that is putting processes in place to make work happen in a more reasoned and manageable way.
What do you like to do in your free time?
RU: I like to cook with my husband, get e-books from the NY Public Library, go to fitness studios on ClassPass, plan vacations, and hang out with my 12-year-old yellow Lab, Duke.