Beavers Aims to Help Students Succeed in School

POUGHKEEPSIE – Latanya Beavers remembers walking into a classroom for the first time as a substitute middle school teacher and asking the students to sit.

“The kids were like, ‘What? You’re a sub.’

“I said, ‘Yes. I’m going to need you to sit down,’” she recalled.

Right away, she said, she understood how to connect with the students, especially at those secondary education levels.

“As a teenager, a lot of times they’re still trying to figure out what kind of adult they want to be,” the Poughkeepsie City School District’s director of secondary education said.
That ability to make an impact – “What other job allows you to shape a life?” – is what made Beavers more than two decades ago fall in love with education, a profession she didn’t plan on pursuing before feeling unfulfilled by her corporate computer science job.

In her new role, Beavers’ focus is on curriculum and instruction at Poughkeepsie’s middle and high schools, as well as the after-school and extended learning time programs.
She came to Poughkeepsie in February from the Mount Vernon City School District, where she was the STEM administrator for the Denzel Washington School of the Arts.

“So far it’s been a wonderful experience,” said the Manhattan native. “These two districts are very similar. A lot of the issues and concerns we had at Mount Vernon City School District, I’m seeing the same similar situations, same dynamics.”

Dr. Charles Gallo, assistant superintendent for secondary education, said Beavers’ “greatest leadership strengths include instructional coaching, professional development, curriculum design, data-driven instruction, standardized testing, organizational strategies, compassion and the ability to establish strong working relationships with all members of the school community.”

Beavers worked with the New York City Department of Education for roughly 15 years as a teacher and math coach, spending time at Harlem’s Thurgood Marshall Academy. She also spent five years as the director of mathematics for Charter Schools, NYC, before joining Mount Vernon first as a math coach, and then STEM administrator. Some places where she taught, she said, had gang activity within its walls.

“I’ve had students come back to me and say ‘You saved my life,’ just through me doing the things we do in education,” she said. “People don’t realize it, but we have the power of making a future or breaking a future.”

Gallo noted her experience leading parent meetings, overseeing staff development and analyzing data to improve student achievement. “Her work with students, staff and parents allowed her to resolve conflicts, help support the school and complete testing for both elementary and high school throughout the district,” he said of her work in Mount Vernon.

Beavers said her immediate objectives are to support the secondary schools’ curriculum and programs and to ensure the standardized testing this month and last runs smoothly. Ultimately, she aims to “make sure that each secondary school, middle school and high school both have a productive curriculum they can use to have success and to make sure they have the tools that they need, to do their job for teachers and students.”

The overarching goal is to prepare each student for adult life, setting them on the correct path. Sometimes, she said, people believe high school is too late to make that difference.
“It’s not too late. Anybody can change at any age,” she said. “It’s not over until it’s over.”

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