LEE member Adriana Lombard knew she wanted to make an impact on the policy that affects her former students each and every day. After going back to school, she dug in on some LEE resources that helped her take her career to the next level.
Explain what led you to care deeply about educational equity. What personal values, experiences or beliefs inform this?
I became interested in education in the United States and the issues and barriers that students face through my Teach For America (TFA) experience. I had not faced the same barriers as many of my students, so through that experience and the training I received in the corps, I realized that I wanted to work to better understand what the systemic issues are that hold students back.
I continued teaching after TFA, and also started working on my master’s of public policy. During this time, I was recruited to teach at a charter school in the East Bay where I was presented with new leadership opportunities. I was appointed as the head of the curriculum committee, and, despite being a science teacher, I had the opportunity to develop and teach a social justice curriculum.
How has LEE helped you in your mission to end educational inequity?
I joined LEE while I was teaching through TFA, but didn’t think about it much for my first couple years out of the corps. In January of 2017, I got an email inviting me to apply to the National Policy & Advocacy Workshop (NPAW). When I opened it, I saw that it was the last day to apply for the Policy & Advocacy Summer Fellowship (PASF). My student, who was sitting next to me at the time, really encouraged me to apply, and even offered to help me fill out the application.
After I applied to PASF, I applied to everything I could at LEE. The timing was perfect for me to participate in all the resources LEE had to offer. I used the career assessment tool to figure out a flow chart for my career and leadership. I attended NPAW and am currently in the Policy & Advocacy Writing Program (PAWP). LEE’s staff has been incredibly supportive. I’ve never worked with an organization that has staff that engages with members like this.
At NPAW, I met some of the staff in LEE’s Los Angeles office. Between them and my career coach, I was able to get connected to Nick Melvoin, a newly-elected Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) board member and LEE member, who I now work for as the Operations Manager for his office.
Tell us about your current role. What’s a typical day like? What is the impact you’re having on educational equity?
At the Office of Nick Melvoin, I play many different roles. I respond to constituents’ calls and emails, but I also oversee a few policy areas: transportation, procurement, and food policy. This directly relates to my graduate school work and background in science. The confidence I gained through my summer fellowship helped me ask for a lot of responsibility.
What is your vision for ending educational inequity in the U.S.?
I don’t know that there's a best way to approach this problem. It’s a balance of understanding the data and the context of what’s happening in communities. People only have a surface level understanding of the data, and we need to provide more context.
I also think we need to take a deep dive into the issues and be willing to act. It’s important to recognize where there’s waste or when a leader needs to be removed. We need to willing to go to uncomfortable places. Education and education policy needs to be student-centered. I’ve been surprised by how much policy conversations revolve around adults, and we need to be sure that students are represented in the decisions made about their education.
What do you see as your role in achieving this vision?
One of the best things that LEE does is take teachers and put them in leadership roles. We care about our students and put them at the forefront of the work. I want to continue to support bringing people with classroom experience into leadership roles. One day, I think I’d like to be a policy director or a chief of staff in an elected leader’s office, but I also know that when you care about something and want to make change, you run for office. Maybe one day.
Adriana Lombard was a 2011 Teach For America corps member serving in Rhode Island. She now serves as the Operations Manager for Los Angeles Unified School District board member Nick Melvoin.