Blog | February 2, 2024

Q&A with Emerging Leaders Fellow Mary Brody

Indiana native and Emerging Leader Fellow Mary Brody began her work in K-12 education right out of college. Before becoming Director of Instruction for Grades 3-5 at KIPP Indy Public Schools (KIPP), she worked as a first and third-grade lead teacher after joining KIPP in 2016.

The Mind Trust’s Emerging Leaders Fellowship is a three-year fellowship for educators who are eager to expand their impact on our city’s students. Fellows receive personalized coaching, resources, and training. Mary is currently in the first year of her Fellowship and is part of the first cohort of Emerging Leaders Fellows

We sat down with Mary to discuss her experience with the cohort thus far and how she has already seen growth in her professional life.

Q: As an emerging leader, what are the roles or experiences that have shaped what you want to do moving forward?

A: I started teaching through Teach For America at a school in the Martindale-Brightwood neighborhood. From years one to two I had made a ton of growth as a first-grade teacher, but felt myself plateauing. As a second-year teacher, I knew I still had so much to learn, but I didn’t feel that I was in an environment where I was being pushed to continue growing and refining my practices. By the end of year two, I made a tough decision to leave my placement school. I transitioned to KIPP and continued to teach first grade for three more years. While teaching first grade, I also took on the challenge of becoming grade-level chair and took part in the Emerging Leaders program at KIPP. My project within KIPP’s Emerging Leaders program centered around research-based phonics and intervention programs to provide strong reading instruction for our students; having taught first grade for so long, foundational reading skills had become a passion of mine. After my fifth year teaching first grade, I was ready for a new challenge, so I transitioned into teaching third grade. I taught third grade for two years, serving as grade-level chair, driving much of our work to prepare our students for IREAD, and learning much more than I wanted to about e-learning. Since stepping into the role of Director of Instruction, I have been able to focus on driving toward excellent instruction for students across multiple grade levels. Coaching teachers allows me to share my knowledge and skillset to increase my impact and ability to move the needle for all students.

In Year 3 as Director of Instruction, I am continuing to refine my coaching skillset. By strengthening my coaching practices and my leadership, I can continue to improve instruction for all of our students. Teachers work incredibly hard; it’s my job as a coach to remove barriers for them and walk alongside them to help them grow in both their content knowledge and instructional practices. I want to continue to grow as a leader to maximize our students’ potential and our teachers’ potential as changemakers for our students.

Q: What has the Emerging Leaders Fellowship brought you that your experience couldn’t?

A: The development we receive is intentional, comprehensive, and truly unmatched. We have worked with a number of leaders across the country on a variety of strategies, skillsets, and practices. Each leader has helped me pinpoint where I need development and ensured that I receive the resources, tools, and practice necessary to grow. It’s also been amazing to have the ability to be able to strengthen my understanding of how my values show up in my leadership, which has led to a stronger sense of fulfillment in my work. Every bit of development has been impactful and almost immediately applicable to my day-to-day work. There are so many skill sets required to be an effective leader; I think The Mind Trust has accounted for all of those different variables in our programming.

Q: What influenced your decision to form ‘Rising Readers’ for your school-based impact project?

A: Early literacy has always been a passion of mine. As a former first and third-grade teacher, I experienced firsthand the difference between students who get strong foundational literacy instruction and those who do not. Students’ early literacy skills were hugely impacted during the pandemic, and many have yet to fully rebound. We continue to see these effects in our current third graders, who were in kindergarten during the year most heavily impacted by e-learning. We recognize the critical need to build our students up as readers because it is truly a lifelong skill. It not only impacts their education but also their ability to engage in their passions and become lifelong learners.

As part of the fellowship, we get to create and implement a project that impacts students in our building. My project for KIPP, Rising Readers, is a before-school tutoring program for third-grade students. The program takes place for one hour, five days a week. We ensure the program is accessible to families by providing early bussing for students, as well as before-care for their siblings.

Q: What training, trip, or other experience so far has stood out?

A: I loved our work with Lindsie Johnson in Washington, D.C., which was the kick-off to our cohort. In D.C., we spent several days getting to know each other and digging into our values and our whys. Everything starts from there as a leader and guides your work. It was an impactful and powerful way to start the fellowship.

Q: What new perspectives do you have now that you’ve worked with leaders from four other schools and other city leaders?

A: It’s been inspiring to see the way that each of those leader’s different personalities and leadership styles show up within the context of the community they lead, or across other leaders. No matter the level of leadership, your identity, your values, and your why are going to impact how you show up as a leader. It’s finding the sweet spot of working from your values, within the context of your community, their needs, and their aspirations that makes for an impactful leader. It’s been inspiring to see that there are so many different ways to do that well.

Q: How has it affected your career so far? 

A: In the past several months, I have already felt a greater sense of self-awareness in my strengths and areas for growth as a leader. I have noted a stronger ability to analyze problems, identify possible solutions, and communicate with varied stakeholders to effect change. I have already been able to fold so much of the learning into my daily practices, which has led to a greater sense of confidence as a leader.

Learn more about Mary Brody here. The application for the next cohort of Emerging Leaders Fellows is now open. Learn more on our website. The deadline to apply is 11:59 p.m. EST on Friday, March 29, 2024.