Congratulations to Penn Fellows Kate Bradley and Jaakirah Reid

Kate Bradley didn’t always know she wanted to be a teacher. After graduating from Yale, she worked as a research assistant in economics at MIT and thought about getting a Ph.D. “But I missed being around people. I missed the community feel of a school,” Bradley said. She had heard of the Penn Fellows program and thought she’d stay in the New England area, where she is from.

Then she visited Gilman.

“I really loved my visit here. Everyone was super friendly, smart, and kind.” She had never thought about teaching at an all boys school. “I was nervous about it.”

In her first year at Gilman, she taught two sections of Algebra II to ninth graders. “It exceeded my expectations,” she remembered. “I wasn’t sure that this was what I wanted to do but now I see that it is. I love teaching. Schools just have so much joy and fun in them. I love that aspect of it.”

This school year, Bradley created and taught a new elective for seniors: Data Analysis. She worked with students on both technical skills like learning how to code and interpret data and also on critical data literacy. “We look at graphs we see online and decode them to see if the conclusions they are drawing from the data are reasonable or what might be missing.”

For her inquiry project, Bradley focused on testing out the practice of interdependent collaboration in the classroom. How well do students work together to make deeper meanings out of math problems? Bradley had a similar experience as a college student when she learned side-by-side with a partner instead of strictly from teacher lectures and independent work.

“The goal was for the students to build interdependence where they are all relying on one another,” she said. The practice promotes teamwork and connection among students. “It’s been rewarding, and I will use it throughout my career.”

Bradley’s time at Gilman is up for now, but she isn’t going far — next school year, she’ll be across the bridge at Bryn Mawr. “I’m excited to be close by and maybe have some of the same students in my Upper School math classes.”

Jaakirah Reid has always been a proponent of single-sex education. She went to an all girls school before attending Colby College. She had known about the Penn Fellows program since her own middle school days and set a goal to one day be part of it.

“Of all the schools where I interviewed, Gilman was the place I enjoyed the most,” Reid said. “I absolutely love teaching here.”

Reid teaches math in the Middle School and participates in athletic rotations — flag football in the fall, fitness and aerobics in the winter, and now she coaches interscholastic baseball. “I love working in middle school. It’s a fun age,” she said. “Middle school years are the ones where kids are trying to shape their identities. They think they either love math or they hate math. I wanted to make an impression on them before their minds are fully made up.”

She feels lucky to have been paired with Hannah Stauffer-Kolkin as her mentor. “We are usually in lock step with trying new ideas,” she said. “All the faculty here are super supportive and happy to jump in and help out. This was a great community to come into.”

For her inquiry project, Reid asked: How effective is mastery-based learning in math? She had noticed there was some tension between boys in the standard track math classes and those in the enriched classes. Rather than trying to differentiate themselves from one another, Reid wanted all of the boys to feel mastery over the concepts they were learning. Instead of tests, she gave “mastery celebrations.” If boys didn’t score at least an 85, they were able to complete a reflective reattempt where they could retry the problems and write about their paths to getting to the correct answers.

“To get away from a culture of kids comparing themselves to one another, I always start my lessons with social-emotional learning. I want them to be OK with being vulnerable so that when they make mistakes, they know how to support each other.”

Reid has observed a shift since implementing mastery-based learning. Where boys may have felt down on themselves about their math abilities, “now they really like math, and they think they are good at it. If a student in an enrichment class has a question, the students in the other classes feel confident to help them.”

Her Penn fellowship may be over but Reid is staying put at Gilman. She has accepted a position to continue teaching math in the Middle School next school year, and she is eager to get more involved at School, especially admissions efforts and trips abroad.

“It’s such a light and joyful environment all the time in the Middle School,” Reid said. “Boys aren’t afraid to be themselves.”

Congratulations to both of our Penn fellows, Kate Bradley and Jaakirah Reid, who will soon complete their masters in education from the University of Pennsylvania.