Teaching Fellows: Changing Policies to Better Support Teachers and Students

Q&A with Ben Nussbaum, GO Teacher Policy Fellow

Ben Nussbaum, a Senior Teacher Policy Fellow, is a sixth grade humanities teacher at Greenleaf Elementary School in Oakland. We asked Ben to share some thoughts about his experience as a Fellow and about the GO Teacher Policy Fellowship in general.

Applications for the GO Teacher Policy Fellowship are now open! Click here to apply. 

What exactly is a GO Teacher Policy Fellow? What do GO Teacher Policy Fellows do?

GO Teacher Policy Fellows are teachers who care about education issues in Oakland and who are looking for opportunities to engage with education policy outside of their day-to-day in the classroom. Fellows learn about important historical events and trends in Oakland education and learn how to become advocates for the policy issues they think will best support Oakland students.

I see that you helped create a set of policy recommendations with other fellows for improving teacher leadership in Oakland. What was that process like? 

After learning about different issues affecting Oakland education, both historically and now, Fellows divided themselves based on interest, into groups for two major issues impacting teacher retention: new teacher support and teacher leadership opportunities. As a Fellow, my group researched different models for teacher leadership in several districts across the country in order to inform our recommendations for the Oakland Unified School District. Then, as a Senior Fellow the next year, I helped facilitate the group as we generated our recommendations, taking into account structures already in place and the current budget situation in Oakland.

In your opinion, what was the most fulfilling and enriching aspect of the Teacher Policy Fellowship?

As teachers, it’s very easy to focus only on what is going on day-to-day in your classroom. The Teacher Policy Fellowship provided a space to engage with important issues in Oakland education and learn how to affect changes in policy to better support teachers and most importantly students. Seeing our policy recommendations show up in the language of both Oakland Education Associations’s and Oakland Unified School District’s sunshine budget proposals wasn’t bad either.

What attracted or convinced you to apply for this opportunity? What would you say to other teachers thinking about joining the Teacher Policy Fellowship?

A previous Fellow recommended that I apply after working with me during several other professional development opportunities. She said it was a great way to meet other committed Oakland teachers and learn how to affect change outside of your classroom. If you’re looking for an opportunity learn about education in Oakland and how to be a part of making it better for students and educators, the Teacher Policy Fellows is a great way to do it.

How has your experience with the Teacher Policy Fellowship influenced your likelihood of engaging in influencing education policy in the future?

As a result of the Teacher Policy Fellowship, I am much more likely to be active with the union and maybe become a site rep. I feel like I have a better idea of how the system works, who the important players are, and how I can have a greater impact on education policy in Oakland.

For more info about the GO Teacher Policy Fellowship, visit this page.

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