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The Best Professional Decision I Ever Made

I absolutely loved being a 4th grade teacher. I relished the rush I felt when students experienced “a-ha” moments, and I was drawn to the challenge of supporting my students who struggled to achieve. In fact, if you were to ask me if I had aspirations of becoming a school leader, I would have looked at you as if you were crazy. And yet here I am, ten years later, a school leader in my fourth year at Rocketship Mosaic and I am here to tell you why it’s the best professional decision I ever made.

When I was asked to consider a move to the assistant principal role, I was overcome with fears and “what-ifs.” What if I felt too removed from the classroom? What if I no longer had the opportunity to build relationships with families? Or most frightening, what if I no longer felt connected to the students? But despite these fears, I couldn’t help but wonder what it would feel like to extend my impact at the classroom level to the school level. So I took a chance and never looked back.

As an assistant principal, I could replicate the amazing support I received as a first-year teacher from my coach. As a school leader, I could influence instructional rigor for students school-wide. As a school leader, I could play a role in unifying staff, families, and students around a vision for academic excellence. It was the thought of turning these possibilities for positive impact into reality that propelled me to make the leap to become an assistant principal.

But becoming a school leader did not come without its challenges. I had to work with our network Schools Team to craft and facilitate high-quality professional development sessions for teachers. I had to strengthen my data analysis skills to assess trends across grade levels and classrooms. I had to hone my instructional eye so that I could review content across grade levels for alignment and rigor. I’ve never grown so much as an educator as I did in my first year as an assistant principal, and I am forever thankful for the professional development I received from Rocketship to support me on this journey.

Kristen greets the students

Kristen greets her students at Rocketship Mosaic Elementary School

And the best part about being an assistant principal at Rocketship? I get to work with committed teachers who are just as passionate about closing the opportunity gap as I am. I am inspired every single day by seeing our students excel as a result of the teachers I coach.

Take Melanie Hang. Four years ago, I had the opportunity to be her coach as she transitioned from an Individualized Learning Specialist (ILS) role to a 5th grade STEM teacher. Impressed by her tenacity, her attention to detail in lesson planning, and her natural classroom management skills, I knew she had the raw talent needed to become a tremendous teacher. Fast forward three years and ~120 coaching meetings later — Ms. Hang led her students to achieve the highest California state assessment (SBAC) results in our school’s history, with 83% of her students scoring at or above standards mastery.

There’s also Vanessa Estavillo. I had the privilege of working with her in her second year of teaching at Rocketship Mosaic. Through thoughtful Vision of Excellence meetings, action-oriented data reviews, and consistent implementation of real-time feedback, Vanessa pushed her students to achieve 1.86 years of growth in a single school year last year, as measured by the NWEA MAP exam.

Not only are Melanie and Vanessa examples of great teachers, but both are Rising Leaders who are themselves working to extend their positive impact across our school. Knowing that I helped them grow as teachers, and now they’ll go on to create even more transformative change in the community, is a feeling of reward I never could have imagined. And I could name many, many more examples of transformational teachers and leaders like Melanie and Vanessa!

I am continually humbled by the opportunity I have been given to serve the students and families within my community. I came to work at Rocketship because of the mission to close the achievement gap in this community, but I have committed to stay because of the people I work alongside every single day. Not only do I have the honor to help them grow, but they also challenge me to work even harder every day in the pursuit of academic excellence for each one of our Rocketeers.

Interested in a school leadership position at Rocketship? Learn more.


Kristen Duprel is a school leader at Rocketship Mosaic Elementary School. Prior to this role, Kristen was a 4th grade teacher in the Oakland Unified School District as well as a 2008 Teach For America Bay Area Corps Member. Kristen graduated from the University of California, Berkeley and received her Master’s in Policy, Organization, & Leadership Studies from Stanford University. Outside of the school, Kristen enjoys spending time with her 1-year-old son, Zachary. 

Published on December 13, 2018