Shawnae Montagueo: Staying close to the policy and structures that shape schools | Leadership for Educational Equity Skip to main content

Shawnae Montagueo: Staying close to the policy and structures that shape schools

  • Shawnae Montagueo

As a senior in college, Shawnae Montagueo wasn’t sure what she was going to do next, but she knew she wanted to serve. Then, she attended a Teach for America discussion on campus.

“It covered topics like the school-to-prison pipeline, failed education agendas, and a plethora of other injustices in America’s school systems rooted in racism and capitalism. I was passionately engaged because those same injustices happened to me, my younger siblings, and generations of overlooked gifted-and-talented children.”

This spurred her into the classroom. But after attending the Northeast Regional Public Leadership Summit, Shawnae realized that she was best suited for policy and advocacy work.

So after she wrapped up her time teaching, Shawnae did the Public Policy Fellowship, where she was able to dig into the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). That eventually led to her co-authoring the state of New Jersey’s ESSA plan.

For Shawnae, it was important that the plan was reflective of the feedback of the people it was going to affect every day.

“When leadership listens and responds to the community, they feel very much apart of the process of making decisions for students. This is a model that we plan to build upon as I help to design more systems of supports for districts to implement ESSA at the local level.

My work requires constantly changing mindsets on the simple idea that every child is gifted and every child can succeed given support and high quality educational opportunities.”

That idea sits at the heart of her vision for ending educational inequity, as she continues her work as policy and implementation manager at the New Jersey Department of Education.

“From the top to the bottom, everyone has a role in ensuring we fully address the needs of students in poverty. I’m a big proponent of policies that reflect high expectations, coupled with clear and strategic systems of support from administration. The kids were always and always will be capable. But what do our policies and systems of support say about our expectations of those we deem responsible for their learning?”


Shawnae Montagueo was a 2013 Teach for America corps member in New Jersey.