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Alum of the Month

July 2017 Alum of the Month: Dale E. Markey '07
Markey (right) with coachee Kamaria Carnes (left), a 2013 Bay Area ELA corps member.

Dale E. Markey '07 joined Teach for America in 2011, and since that time, she has steadily risen from corps member and through several staff positions. She is currently Managing Director of Program for the Teaching As Leadership Team in San Jose, California, the Bay Area's largest team.

After Hotchkiss, Markey matriculated at Williams College, where she would eventually graduate with a B.A. in political science and psychology. Her time as an undergraduate proved to have great influence on her future path. During her sophomore-year summer, Markey went to Jordan to volunteer with the non-profit organization, Reclaim Childhood, hosted that summer by King's Academy. The Academy, founded in 2007 and inspired by the vision of His Majesty King Abdullah II and his experience as a student at Deerfield Academy, boasts a close philosophical affiliation with "The Eight Schools" group in the U.S., comprised of Andover, Choate, Deerfield, Exeter, Hotchkiss, Lawrenceville, Northfield Mount Hermon, and St. Paul's. "This was my first time in a mentorship role," recalls Markey, "and I loved working with children. It forced me to see my own privilege and their resilience." Reclaim Childhood is based in Amman, Jordan, and seeks to empower refugee girls and local women through sport and play.

Junior year, Markey studied abroad at Oxford University through the Williams-Exeter Program. Given her interest in Middle East peace following her summer in Jordan, she attended a lecture hosted by preeminent scholars on the topic. "The speaker talked about the Middle East peace process, and a student asked him, 'You have many ideas. How do you put these ideas into policy?' His answer was that he was 'not responsible for instituting policy.' That struck me hard, and I knew at that point that I wanted to really make a difference beyond just talking about it." Returning to Williams her senior year, Markey finished out her political science requirement, taking an American politics course called Race, Education, and Poverty in the South. "Through what we read in that course, I came to the realization that some of the very challenges refugee children in Amman, Jordan were facing existed right here in America. So really, it was a combination of moments that led me to know that I wanted to focus on the education system here. As part of Teach for America's mission, the organization strives to create leaders, and I felt that this was an important piece of the picture. For me, it was less about becoming a lifelong teacher and more about better understanding the reality of the disenfranchised here in this country, so that I could go on to impact change at a systems level."

Markey was trained by Teach for America as a member of the 2011 Delta Corps, and was placed in a school in the Palestine-Wheatley School District in Wheatley, Arkansas. "My first impression was, 'This place is different.' I thought I knew about an agricultural lifestyle, but moving to the Deep South was more of a culture shock than my summer in Jordan. But I came to discover that the people were the strongest and most-grounded humans I have ever met." Markey taught 7th- and 8th- grade English Language Arts to 120 students from a rural farming town about 30 minutes from the Mississippi River in the Delta region. "A lot of people believed and had directly messaged to my students that they couldn't learn and didn't matter. And that was just false. Yes, many of them were below- to far- below grade level; however, in just one school year they grew an average of 1.69 years in reading and closed the achievement gap in literacy on the state test (ACTAAP) by more than 40 percent. They rose from a 15- percent proficiency to 73- percent proficiency in one year. That's unprecedented. And that's those kids. They continue to prove everyone wrong."

Additionally, Markey worked for Teach for America in the summer at Delta Institute as a Corps Member Advisor, coaching and supporting new corps members in Clarksdale and Greenville, Mississippi. She returned to that role for a second summer, and served as one of five ELA (English Language Arts) corps members who lead professional development workshops once a month for fellow TFA teachers. And over the next several years, Markey worked as Corps Member Advisor; Manager, Teacher Leadership Development; and, Secondary Humanities Specialist. And now, in her current role, she spends her time designing learning experiences for 140 first- and second- year corps members in the San Jose community. In this role she helps develop learning opportunities, leads professional development projects, supports the team in coaching corps members, meets with school board members, and leads all learning program-related staff and corps member development. "I spend a lot of time learning from kids, parents, and community members about our schools in San Jose, and trying to help build and be part of the community that they want here."

Speaking from her background, which includes time in a public elementary school, a private middle school, and then a private secondary school at Hotchkiss, and drawing on what she has learned since, Markey thinks that there are two big challenges facing America's educational system. "There are too many lines of division between public, private, and charter schools," she notes, "so people tend to get competitive with credentials, degrees, etc. We're putting our individual accountability ahead of our collective accountability. We view it as zero sum - either you win or I will, rather than winning together when we see our liberation tied up in each other. I also feel that the teaching profession is not valued enough. When teachers are regarded as true professionals, everyone works together making systemic change possible. It is easy to feel disenfranchised when large blocks of the population are still being prepared for factory jobs that don't exist any more. We aren't thinking about the problems at the right altitude, and the current system is doing what we designed it to do, and it is perpetuating injustice along the lines of race, class, and privilege."

In reflecting about Hotchkiss in relation to her choice to join Teach for America, Markey says, "I am not sure that Hotchkiss inspired the decision to teach, but there were several faculty members who were important in my own attempt to live into my authentic teacher self. Mrs. Albis, Mr. Trethaway, Mr. Marchant, and Mr. Sohrweide were all important mentors for me, some through coaching and some in the classroom. I did not try to emulate them, but I thought a lot about what made them so effective as teachers and coaches. In a broad sense, I know that Hotchkiss prepared me well; it was the first place where I really struggled academically and socially, and I think the fact that you fail every day in some way, and everyone struggles at some point, there is great value in that, because Hotchkiss teaches you how to get up again - it teaches resilience. And that was what I needed most in my role as teacher, and remains invaluable as I have become the support for our teacher coaches and program designers."

Markey would "absolutely recommend Teach for America to current students interested in education and in making a difference. If you want to truly comprehend the reality of our education system and the complexity of creating change, you must understand what is going on. You can then make choices that will lead to a better system for all."