Growing up in rural Indiana, Spencer Lloyd never imagined he'd become a music teacher in an urban school district.
But while pursuing a music education degree, he landed a student teaching assignment in Indianapolis Public Schools and fell in love with his students at Arsenal Technical High School on Indianapolis' east side. A year later, he got a job in IPS - first at John Marshall Community High School and then at Emmerich Manual High School, where he directs the choir.
In his four years at Manual, Lloyd has made a tremendous impact on his students. He grew the choir from 12 to more than 70 students. Last winter, Lloyd took 19 of his top singers to New York City to perform in Carnegie Hall.
And in 2009, when Indianapolis Star columnist Matthew Tully spent a year chronicling life at Manual, Lloyd captured the columnist's attention as an ambitious, inspiring young teacher. In one of his columns about the school, Tully called on the community to attend the Christmas Spectacular concert that Manual's choir performed and Lloyd directed. As a result, an overflow crowd - the largest seen in Manual's history - filled the auditorium for two performances of the show.
But Lloyd also has experienced the challenges of teaching in an urban school. He's had to reapply for his job every year, in most cases because of an old union layoff policy that mandated the least experienced teachers lose their jobs first when staff reductions took place. He's struggled with the top-down structure of his district. And he's been frustrated by the academic apathy that runs rampant among many students and parents at his school.
His experience as a Teach Plus Policy Fellow has helped make overcoming those challenges easier and has kept Lloyd excited and passionate about teaching. Teach Plus, which grew out of The Mind Trust's Education Entrepreneur Fellowship, helps to combat the high turnover rate among talented young teachers in urban schools by giving them a voice in the policy-making process to keep them engaged in the profession.
Through Lloyd's experience with Teach Plus, he's had the opportunity to network with teachers from around the country, write columns about his teaching experience for the Huffington Post and network with local education and political leaders, including Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett. In the process, he's become part of a community of fellow teachers with whom he can share experiences. And by seeing the power of his voice in the policymaking process, his budding interest in politics and education policy has been heightened.
Lloyd, who began his fifth year at Manual in August, this fall will be leading a group of teachers who support Bennett as he competes for a second term as public schools chief. And Lloyd has not ruled out making his own run for public office in the future.
"By helping to create Teach Plus, The Mind Trust has helped to keep my passion alive for the teaching profession and has made me realize the power of my voice as a teacher," Lloyd said. "My involvement in Teach Plus has helped to encourage me as I continue making a difference in the classroom and has inspired me to explore opportunities for influencing policy beyond the classroom. For that, I'm grateful."