What do you do if you’re a successful African American female engineer spending your nights and weekends worrying about the state of public education? Especially when the children in your neighborhood, already struggling with poverty, violence and racial discrimination, aren’t getting the education they deserve.
If you’re LaShawn Neal, you make the decision to do something about it. You decide that, like education reform leaders Marva Collins and Lisa Delpit, you will take on the challenge of educating our youth. You apply to the Pittsburgh Urban Teaching Corps (PUTC) and dedicate yourself to making a difference in the lives of children impacted by race and poverty.
Before making the decision to change her career, LaShawn worked for Turner Construction Company as a Senior Cost Engineer. She spent her week forecasting earnings for projects in Pittsburgh as well as understanding all related project risks. After years pursuing her career in engineering, LaShawn’s commitment to social justice and passion for helping children never went away. “I had been tutoring and working with youth in other volunteer capacities and my heart became burdened to do more as it relates to the education of our children.”
After much contemplation, LaShawn decided to make a career change to become a teacher.She applied to the PUTC program and in March 2015, she was selected as one of 10 inaugural members. LaShawn now spends her time in a 4th grade math classroom at a Propel Charter School in McKeesport, PA followed by night classes at Chatham University pursuing a Masters of Arts in Teaching (MAT).
The PUTC is a teacher residency program developed by Propel Charter Schools and Chatham University in 2014. Selected participants are provided fully-funded tuition for MAT degree, a $1,350 per month stipend, health insurance, professional development and mentorship in exchange for 3 years as a full-time teacher in a Propel school. Participants embark on an intense 15 months of graduate coursework and a year-long teacher apprenticeship in one of Propel’s 10 Pittsburgh-area schools. The program is designed specifically for people who want to make a difference in the lives of students and who have a passion for social justice and educational equity.
Despite her very busy schedule, LaShawn stays focused and is determined to get as much out of the program as possible. She said she leaves school every day “with an overwhelming feeling of knowing that I made the right decision to switch careers. Making a difference in the lives of children brings me so much joy.”
The PUTC is currently accepting applications for its second group of candidates. Applications will be accepted through November 15, 2015. For information about the program or to apply, please visit pghurbanteachers.org or contact Kimberly Roberts, Director of Talent for Propel Schools at firstname.lastname@example.org.
LaShawn Neal resides in Export, PA and graduated from Penn State University. She loves traveling and running and hopes to complete 50 races by the time she turns 50.