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Meet the Geeks: Crystal Carter

Slam poet champion. Teacher. Proud defender of Oklahoma BBQ.

Crystal Carter wears a lot of hats, but being a compassionate person comes first in her role as an instructional coach.

Born and raised in Tulsa, Crystal is back in her hometown to support teachers in a trio of Tulsa schools that are implementing Teach to One: Math.

Crystal Carter - Deputy Director of Instructional Support at New Classrooms

As Deputy Director of Instructional Support, Crystal embodies an All In mindset when it comes to supporting teachers and students to create high-quality personalized learning experiences.

Learn more about her journey to New Classrooms and how she continues to support the growth and math performance in the schools she serves.

What is a fun fact that people might not know about you?

CC: I used to be a spoken word artist and have published two books—one in 2007 and the other in 2009. I was actually a Slam Champion and toured on the Word Around Town Poetry Tour in Houston.

My dad was the first African American all-state actor in the the state of Oklahoma. He was really into speech and debate, and he always used to get me into all kinds of things like that. So, it was a natural progression for me to do slam poetry.

What inspired you to work in education?

CC:  I’m going into my 16th year in education. In college, I was an education and pre-law major. My scholarship only covered four years of school and to do both majors would require a fifth year. I decided to pursue law school and thought that maybe I could teach later in life.

Well, I hated law school. I volunteered at a few community education programs where I helped teach math and dance and it really made me want to be a teacher. I started substituting to see if teaching was something I would really enjoy and I loved it!

What do you like most about living in Tulsa, Oklahoma?

CC: My parents and all of my siblings live here. Tulsa also has a really rich history. If you know anything about Greenwood and the story of Black Wall Street, that’s where I’m from. They even have a whole section about it at the National Museum of African American History and Culture. I’m really proud of that.

Also, their BBQ is the best! I remember people recommending that I try a BBQ spot in New York. I’ll try just about anything else there, but nothing can touch Oklahoma’s BBQ.

What’s it like working in the school district where you once attended?

CC: It’s exciting to see teachers and students that I grew up with or taught years ago. I’m always running into someone I know from either childhood or my classroom teaching experiences.

When I started at New Classrooms, I noticed there had been a lot of changes in the schools here. When I lived in Tulsa, one of the schools I currently work in was struggling. Last year, students there achieved their MAP learning goals more than any school in the entire district. People who know what I do are always interested in learning more about the positive changes that are happening there.

What does your average day look like?

CC: I think that we really embody the New Classrooms’ Core Operating Principle, “All In For Whatever It Takes.” Sometimes we are instructional specialists; other times, it feels like we are counselors or referees.

An average day includes rounds of the entire feedback cycle, so there’s a lot of observation, note-taking, feedback conversations with suggested strategies, modeling, and professional development sessions with student and/or teacher data. Also, there are emails responding to instructional questions and concerns from everyone (teachers, principals and other New Classrooms employees, etc.), and check-ins with principals. We also tend to the human element of our roles. I always say that we are dealing with people, not spreadsheets, so we have to be humans first.

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