Erin Vasquez ’23

KIPP Philadelphia Public Schools, Philadelphia, PA

This summer I had the opportunity to work as an English Language Arts Intern at KIPP Philadelphia, a nonprofit charter school network that serves students from grades K-12 from traditionally underserved communities.

Re-reading Freckle Juice.

On the first day of my internship, Emily Gaertner, my supervisor, showed her to-do list for the summer. It was a 6-page, single-spaced Google document with an early August deadline. As someone with little formal background in curriculum writing, I was quickly worried that I would not make as much as a dent in Emily’s never ending to-do list. After the first week of the internship, phrases such as “S & S” (Scope and Sequences) and Common Core standards became permanent parts of my vocabulary, holding the same importance as “please” and “thank you.” My main project for the summer was to brand, organize and build out the S & S for 3rd-11th grade ELA classes for the 2021-2022 school year. This involved editing last year’s lesson plans and assigning Common Core content standards for each lesson. While completing these tasks, not only was I making concrete advances on Emily’s checklist, I was also building a better understanding of the background work that goes into lesson planning and standardization for an entire school year. My favorite part of this project was rereading childhood favorite books, such as Freckle Juice and Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, which I would later develop lesson plans for. In between check-ins for the progress of the project, I was able to learn more about Emily’s journey within the education field and receive strong professional support that I know I can depend on in the future as I begin my search for work after Williams.

When I first started this internship, I had a vague idea that I wanted to enter the education field but had yet to develop a specific direction of what I wanted to do. However, I was able to gain valuable skills such as lesson planning, curriculum building, curriculum research, and a strong understanding of the urgency in prioritizing equity in our education system. I was introduced to the complicated politics in education and was given concrete examples of how I could continue to establish equitable learning environments outside of this internship, which I hope to apply in my own communities. Although I am still uncertain as to what I specifically want to do in education, from being a teacher to a curriculum writer (or both), the skills and knowledge I have gained through this internship have given me the foundation for informing my future participation in the education system.

I would like to express my gratitude to the ’68 Center for Career Exploration and Jeffrey Hines ’77 for supporting my internship at KIPP Philadelphia Public Schools. Without their generosity and support, this invaluable learning experience would not have been possible. I am grateful for the opportunity to expand my skillset and to immerse myself in a work environment where I am able to pursue my passions for equity and education.