Music enthusiast, father and avid runner, are just a few ways to describe New Classrooms’ Travis Larrier, a Director of Growth and Expansion. In his role, Travis works to introduce districts and schools to our flagship program, Teach to One: Math (TTO), in an effort to grow the number of partner schools we work with every year.
Learn more about his journey to New Classrooms and how he garnered an interest in personalized learning below
What are your hobbies? What do you do during your spare time?
TL: I’m really into music and like going to live shows. I consider myself a lightweight vinyl collector and enjoy the festival circuit. I listen to a lot of 90's hip-hop and the music that branches from it. I’ll listen to a hip-hop record like Nas or Kendrick Lamar, then hear the samples they use, figure out where they got the sample from, and it will get me into a whole bunch of new and old artists.
If you see me around the office with my headphones in, I’m usually taking calls, but I’m also taking in all this new music.
How did you celebrate Father’s Day?
TL: We did a father-son race at Riverside Park. It was great because there weren’t a lot of families and the “race” was around 100 yards. My son always sees me come home from races with a medal, so he was totally into being able to get a medal from this race and bring it home.
Why do you choose to work in education?
TL: I was in the private sector working in consulting and then for a bank the first half of my career. Barack Obama’s candidacy for President was when I became really interested in public service. It was a moment where creating change through politics and policy-making felt like something that was very accessible and doable.
I remember his approach to education reform resonated because his platform wasn’t in lockstep with any of the traditional stakeholder groups. Something different was needed because these kinds of traditional alliances had failed for generations. So I left my position with the bank and started working on education policies in Philadelphia, first at the School District of Philadelphia and later for Mayor Michael Nutter.
Our aim at the time was to create a system of great schools in a tri-sector landscape (traditional public schools, public charters, and independent schools). How do you create a system that allows for quality outcomes when kids are coming out of three different sectors? It’s a complex thing. My role in that was to convene and support the leaders of these three sectors to create and advocate for policies that that created more high-quality school options that improved outcomes for all Philadelphia children.
How did you hear about New Classrooms?
TL: I remember we were at the end of our term in the mayor’s office and everyone was thinking about what their next steps were. I was reflecting on the work that we were doing in Philadelphia.
There were many classrooms that I saw, in all three sectors, that were employing what’s often called a “factory model” approach to the classroom: one teacher, 25 kids, all working on the same thing regardless of whether the students were ready for it.
I saw how kids were falling further and further behind under this approach and how, in this case, increasing the number of school options wasn’t really addressing the root problem that the traditional classroom experience was not working for all kids. I wanted to think about ways to do school differently and was excited by the opportunity to work for an organization that really thought about this idea of personalized learning and new models for schools. That’s what attracted me to New Classrooms.
Who was your favorite teacher growing up?
TL: My favorite teacher was Ms. Black, my sixth grade math teacher. She was super dedicated and really passionate about her kids. She was clearly one of the good ones, but one memory that stands out actually has to do with a case where I struggled in her class. I couldn’t convert decimals to fractions or percentages after working on it for two days. I remember feeling so lost and helpless when Ms. Black announced that we were moving onto the next subject tomorrow. I remember wanting to scream “Wait, I’m not ready!”
Thankfully, my mother tutored me after school and I eventually filled in this gap in my learning. But without her, I wouldn’t have understood conversions and the next concept would have been even more challenging to learn after that. I think about this experience—and Ms. Black—every day when I do this work because I believe our model helps good teachers be even better at supporting kids who learn at different paces.