Editors Note: Teachers@ED profiles some of the hundreds of current and former educators who work at the U.S. Department of Education, and how their experiences in schools inform their work for the agency.
One of Tate Gould’s favorite memories as a teacher was his lesson on geometric proofs. He would set up a “courtroom environment” where students played the role of lawyer, trying to develop a method for solving various geometric proofs. Each team had the opportunity to present their approach defending their method against “objections” from other teams while engaging in a healthy defense and debate about their method for solving the problem..
What made these lessons interesting for students was the fact that there was no single way to solve the geometric proof. And Gould, who now works on the U.S. Department of Education’s Race to the Top team as the deputy director of Implementation and Support Unit for Technical Assistance, would say the same is true with education reform. As states are coming up with different and innovative plans to better educate their students, there is more than one way to achieve the end result of reforming the classroom experience.
Gould has ample education experience, both on the ground in schools and in the policy arena. He attended the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill for his undergraduate degree and was National Board Certified as a secondary education math teacher. He taught 9th through 12th grade for over five years in a high-needs school. He earned a masters degree at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and a doctorate from UNC, both in education policy.
While teaching, Gould tried to connect with individual students while being mindful of teaching an entire class. He recalled that one of the challenges of teaching is building trust of the individuals in order to manage the class.
“I always wanted to be a teacher. I just didn’t know it,” he said. “I always kind of gravitated to the type of work. I like managing people, and teaching allows you to do that constantly. I liked treating the classroom like a team and trying to get that team to accomplish similar goals.”
Gould has experienced a similar challenge in his work at ED. While the Race to the Top initiative awards states that are leading the way in ambitious plans for implementing innovative, coherent and comprehensive education reform, Gould has similar challenges with navigating the relationship between the states and the federal government. The challenge: how to foster a level of trust with each state while demonstrating to them that they are collectively working on the same goals.
“A good teacher manages the individual, but also the group,” Gould said. “That’s what our challenge here is. These plans are really what the states came up with. How can we get them to teach and learn from each other? How do we create a supportive environment for them with experts, other federal grant programs, and external organizations to create a network of resources to help these states achieve ambitious goals?”
Natalie Torentinos is a graduate student at The George Washington University and a recent intern in the Office of Communications and Outreach.