This year, as P.S. 15 teachers and staff welcomed back their students, they also welcomed a new face–CFK’s new School Manager, Alyxe Lett. Alyxe coordinates CFK’s programs at P.S. 15 and builds relationships with students, teachers, administrators, parents and volunteers. Here at CFK, Alyxe works with our brand new Education Director, Kayla Dove. For those of you who don’t get to sit across from Kayla in the office, or aren’t lucky enough to still be in grade school at P.S. 15, we thought you might like to hear a little bit about these two program dynamos, in their own words.
Abby Holstein: School has been in session for a few weeks now. Any highlights you can share from your days at P.S. 15 or our other partner schools so far?
Alyxe Lett: I’ve really enjoyed meeting the principals, assistant principals, guidance counselors and parent coordinators in both of my schools. I also attended a back-to-school night at P.S. 15, which was a great opportunity to meet parents, teachers and to network with other organizations. Everyone has been super friendly and helpful.
Kayla Dove: What immediately comes to mind is my recent visit to P.S. 15. I had a chance to take a tour and speak to a few of the classroom teachers. I was amazed that in the short time we’ve been partnered with the school (programs only started last January), the impact is so palpable–from the mural we helped create that greets you as you walk in, to the teachers, who asked, “When is the program starting again, we can’t wait.”
AH: What are you excited to do in your new position? What do you hope to achieve?
AL: I’m really excited to meet more of the P.S. 15 community and to see CFK’s programs in action, particularly Story Pirates performances and our music classes. I hope to achieve increased communication between teachers, staff and program partners and more engagement among parents and families at P.S. 15 and P.S. 73. Both are challenges at my schools.
KD: I am excited about starting a new team with Alyxe and Zareta [Ricks, our School Manager for P.S. 81 and Brooklyn Landmark]. We each have specific strengths that are complementary to each other and we all have the same passion for the work. I hope to build on the idea of what it means to be a CFK school and develop a network between the schools for the sharing of ideas.
AH: Tell me about the work you did before you came to Change for Kids.
AL: Immediately before coming to CFK, I was an English teacher in Bogota, Colombia. As much as I liked teaching, I became more interested in taking on more of a community coordinator role which would allow me to continue to work in a school setting but also allow me to do more program work and project management. I think my role in the Peace Corps, working in multiple schools as an environmental educator and program coordinator, really was the starting point of my love for education and inspired me to pursue similar roles.
KD: I started out as a dancer and a dance educator, developing a multidisciplinary approach to learning, and teaching in different venues, from pre-K to college. I then moved into museum education, working closely with schools to bring resources of the institutions to support learning in the classroom. Museums and organizations I’ve worked at are: Liberty Science Center, Young Audiences New York, Brooklyn Children’s Museum, and the Long Island Children’s Museum. Most recently I worked as a research assistant at the Educational Development Center on project evaluating science learning in pre-school classrooms.
AH: What brought you to CFK?
AL: I actually initially applied for a Communications Manager position at Change for Kids, but in the middle of my first interview, the team at CFK suggested I check out the School Manager position. As soon as I read the description, I thought, “Wow, yeah. That is totally me!” And the rest is history.
What really appealed to me about being a School Manager at CFK was the broad range of responsibilities that would put me in contact with so many different people at the schools and in so many different capacities. Working with staff, parents, teachers and, of course, the students–I’m a people person so this part of the job is the best! And it’s this one-on-one time that sets CFK apart for me, because it really allows our organization to tailor our programming to a school’s needs, rather than applying a top-down, one-size-fits-all approach that is the pitfall of other organizations.
KD: For the past 20 years I have worked in organizations that bring its resources to support learning in underserved schools. What sets Change for Kids apart from other organizations is the work that’s done to individualize each partnership with the needs of the school and community. It is also an interesting time for CFK, reflecting on what is working and seeing how the model can be expanded, without compromising the quality of the partnerships.
I truly believe in CFK’s mission. My personal mission for my work is: knowing that each child learns differently, and that not every child learns best by reading a book at a desk, I want to help each child to develop skills that will help them succeed in school and life. And that is what CFK does.
AH: Do you have a favorite story from your work in education?
AL: During my time in Peace Corps in Guatemala, one of the many projects that I started there was a radio show that I had on the town’s radio station. The show was called “Amigos del Ambiente” (“Friends of the Environment”) and it was about environmental issues. For one show, I had a few of my third grade students come on the air to talk about things you could do at home to conserve electricity. They sang a song and read a short, funny play, too. It was so cute! Later, complete strangers from around town would come up to me and ask, “You’re the one from the radio, right? I’ve learned so much from your show and when you have the kids on there it’s even better!” That made my heart smile.
KD: This goes under the category of multidisciplinary learning, I was doing a professional development workshop for school administrators (principals and superintendents) and I had them all up and doing the “bee dance.” I am sure they will never look at a bee the same way again.
AH: Do you have a favorite memory from your elementary school days?
AL: As an elementary school and middle school kid, I never stopped talking (okay, that hasn’t changed much!), so I was always being sent outside the classroom or being moved away from my friends. One day, I was absent because I was sick.The next day, my best friend told me that someone had been talking and making everyone laugh and our teacher automatically yelled out, “Alyxe, go outside!” but then immediately realized I wasn’t there. That had everyone laughing even more. I was always a great student and my teachers liked me, but I was always running my mouth, jajajaja!
KD: It’s too many years ago…but I do remember being able to spend one day a term in elementary school painting a picture of anything I wanted to in the back of the classroom and not having to participate in the day’s lessons. I can’t imagine elementary school without art, music or recess.
AH: Thank you, Kayla and Alyxe, and welcome to Change for Kids!