Monday, October 21, 2013

An Interview with Teach For America’s Kathleen Fujawa, Senior Managing Director at Teach For America

Kathleen was a member of Troop 105 out of Fairport, New York and received her Gold Award in the spring of 1989.  She is a Senior Managing Director on Teach For America’s human assets team, and works outside of Boston, Massachusetts, where she lives with her husband and 4-year-old daughter.

When and why did you decide on a career in education?

Learning has always been a passion of mine. This started very early in my life and was certainly fostered by being raised in a loving household by parents who understood the joy and power that comes from getting a great education. My brother and I always assumed we would not only go to college, but would also earn graduate degrees. It was in Girl Scouts and then in college, where I had experiences that highlighted that these opportunities were not available to everyone. Access to education was something I valued but very much took for granted.
Music was one of my most passionate areas of study. My interests in music and the arts led to a fascination with the business end of it all, so I started working in non-profit and for-profit education, mostly in development, marketing and human resources.  I joined Teach For America’s staff in 2005, and was one of the first members of our human assets team.  My focus is making sure that our 2000+ staff members thrive and lead at Teach For America. Supporting their efforts is an important part of the critical work that we are doing to create positive change in communities across the country.
Both Girl Scouts and Teach For America are about leadership and change.  How did your Girl Scout experience translate into your current experience?
Many people think of leadership as something intimidating. A leader is big, powerful, and charismatic.  That has never felt like me.  But I think what was so wonderful about Girl Scouts is that it gave me a multitude of models of amazing leadership, and allowed me to really understand myself and my strengths, while also challenging me in ways that I never realized I could be strong.  I was a pretty shy child, and I found myself having the opportunity to test myself and lead others in a way that was very uniquely mine.
My Gold Award project foreshadowed the work that I now do.  It was focused on bringing music to a variety of underserved populations in my community, and connected the performers with the participants.  I feel like that was the beginning of what is very meaningful to me in my day to day work – making a difference, giving back, and building lasting partnerships built on mutual respect and trust. 
What skills and/or characteristics did you learn as a Girl Scout that you still use today?
There are so many!  I think first off, my time in Girl Scouts contributed to my love of learning, which is such a big part of how I work and live my life. It took this love of learning and helped me take my passions and strengths and apply them in new ways, growing my self-confidence and leadership skill by facing experiences may be unfamiliar or challenging.
My senior troop had a focus on canoeing, which I loved, but they competed and I had never done that before.  We trained each spring as soon as we could get outside and competed in a regatta every Memorial Day weekend, which really emphasized my discipline and work ethic strengths, as well as my ability to build strong relationships – you need to really know and trust your partner and team when you are racing down rapids!  
Girl Scouts also gave me a better understanding of diversity and my place in this very unique world.  It gave me the sense of humility, of duty and obligation along with the self-confidence, leadership and love of service to be able to act on them. And clearly it was the start of my love of service and my desire to see that as an important part of my life’s work.
In your opinion, why do you think a Girl Scout would make a good Teach For America corps member?
Girl Scouts have a unique combination of perseverance, humility and leadership, which our corps members need to succeed in the classroom.  Inherent in the program is a true love for education and learning, which would translate wonderfully to working as a teacher. It is a natural fit!
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Girl Scouts is proud to be a national partner of Teach For America.

Teach For America corps members commit to teach for two years in 48 regions across the country.  They work relentlessly to lead their students to the academic success that can put them on a dramatically different life path. You can be one of the thousands of leaders committed to achieving educational excellence for all. You can shape our future. Learn more about why you should join the corps.

Join the movement and apply to the 2013 Teach For America corps.

Next Application Deadline: This Friday, October 25, 2013.