Blog | March 22, 2024

Q&A with Emerging Leaders Fellow Stephanie Rendon-Silva

Emerging Leader Fellow Stephanie Rendon-Silva began her work in K-12 education through Teach For America (TFA) 6 years ago. Since starting at her placement school, Circle City Prep (CCP), Stephanie went from teacher to Director of Operations.  

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. Stephanie is in the first year of her Fellowship and is part of the first cohort of Emerging Leaders Fellows.

We sat down with Stephanie 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 always thought I would do my TFA commitment and leave when the time came. I kept saying that, but then ended up teaching an additional year. While leaving the classroom was a tough decision, it has given me another reason to continue and keep doing the work. It’s helped me refocus my why. There’s so much to learn still!

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

A:  The cohort. We have different personalities and do different roles at our schools, but we carry each other and cheer each other on. The comradery is there. It’s nice to have a safe space and be able to seek validation as people recently elevated to leadership. From our shared experiences, we can deeply understand each other and what we are each going through. 

Q: What influenced your decision to create a library at CCP for your school-based impact project?

A: Through the fellowship, I was reminded that I can advocate for the students I serve even through operations work, such as talking with and managing vendors. I was already doing that in some areas, but it’s helped me push it further to make sure we are getting the resources we need for our students. 

Throughout the years, we have hosted and led book fairs that left students smiling from ear to ear. For my impact project, I wanted to continue to spread this joy of reading and foster it. I want the students at CCP to be able to choose the books they have in their library, and I want the stories and characters to reflect who they see walking the halls each day.

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

A: The trip that stood out the most was going to D.C. in June. It was nice to get away, though as an operations person, summer is a busy time and I had to pause what I was doing at CCP to attend. It was a good reminder that it’s okay to disconnect. 

With the fellowship, we also have impact coaching, and my coach, Jill, was on-site. It was nice to have her here since her feedback was personalized. She learns how you receive feedback to make sure her approach will be the most receptive to you. She’s willing to look through the things you find a problem with and help you navigate them and find solutions. Jill as a coach this first semester has been super helpful, especially when she was in-person with me.

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 exciting because CCP was my Teach For America placement school and now this is my 6th year here. I haven’t had a chance to connect with other educators outside of my school. The fellowship has been very helpful in making new connections and fostering their growth. 

Along with that, all of the school visits we have been to so far have been validating the work we are doing. It’s been interesting to hear the stories of those at other schools and learn from the experiences they have had. Every professional development session I step away and think of how it can be applied to a current situation or challenge.

Q: How has it affected your career so far? 

A: I have already grown in my confidence and knowing where and how to ask for help. Luke has done a really good job at pushing out things that are relevant to everyone even if not specific to our roles. I already feel more confident and willing to ask for help, both of which can be hard for a first-generation Latina.

The fellowship has given me new perspectives on how my values align with the work and how that can help push it forward. It’s about giving it your all but also making sure you are taking care of yourself so you can learn more. It’s given me the tools and scripts to engage in critical conversations and prevent imposter syndrome. I am in these spaces for a reason. 
Learn more about Stephanie Rendon-Silva here. The application for the next cohort of Emerging Leaders Fellows is now open. Learn more on our website. The application deadline is 11:59 p.m. EST on Friday, March 29, 2024.